Harborough park cafe to close

Staff and supporters outside the Welland Park cafe in Market Harborough with district council leader Blake Pain in 2012
Staff and supporters outside the Welland Park cafe in Market Harborough with district council leader Blake Pain in 2012

A cafe service at Welland Park which has been run by people with learning difficulties for the past 18 years is set to close.

The Hft charity, which helps oversee the service, says it will cease to operate the cafe at the end of May.

Peter Needham, the finance director at Hft, said: “It’s with a heavy heart that we are proposing to close the cafe.

“However, as a charity, we cannot continue to operate venues which are operating at a loss.”

But regular cafe user and Harborough residentTracey Robinson, said: “That cafe is the heart of the park.

“The staff are welcoming and lovely, the food is good and inexpensive and it’s good for the community and for the people who work there.

“I feel really quite strongly about this, because I know what it means to the staff.”

Care Shangton and then Self Unlimited, the charities which operated the care village at Shangton, north of Harborough, had been running the cafe since the late 1990s, offering those with learning difficulties the chance to enter the world of work.

In April 2013, Hft merged with Self Unlimited to form a larger charity, providing residential care, supported living and employment services to 2,500 people with learning disabilities across England.

Following the merger, the joint charity has been “reviewing costs and structures” and found the cafe “was not meeting the charity’s financial expectations”, according to a statement issued this week.

The Mail understands Harborough Council, which owns the cafe, did not charge the charity any rent.

The cafe opens seven days a week, including bank holidays, selling home-made cakes, pastries and snacks.

The cafe has already been advertised on property website Rightmove by the council in a bid to find new tenants, at a rent of £8,000 a year.

The advert states: “This is an excellent opportunity to run an established cafe in an attractive and popular park.”

Dozens of people took to Facebook this week in a bid to keep the cafe open.

One Facebook user said: “The council want it to go to the ‘right’ people and as I’ve explained – that is us!

“Nothing is ever over till the fat lady sings (and I ain’t singing yet!).”