The National Trust has been accused of a ‘senseless act of vandalism’ over plans to demolish one of Britain’s oldest beach cafes in Dorset as part of its efforts to manage coastal erosion.
There was a Middle Beach cafe in Studland, Dorset, for over 100 years, but it is now at risk of being bulldozed under a controversial ‘managed retirement’ policy.
The current popular and thriving cafe has overlooked Middle Beach for 70 years.
However, it reached its final chapter after the National Trust – handed to it in 1982 as part of its biggest ever land gift, announced it would close with the loss of ten jobs.
Paul Brown, who has run the cafe with his two sisters since 1989, was told by the organization that he would lose his business on January 2.
Andrew Parsons, a local parish councilor and retired civil engineer, said what the Trust is doing is against its constitution.
He said: ‘That’s not what the National Trust should be doing. The Trust is meant to conserve buildings of historic value, not to decide autocratically to demolish them for reasons that are far from clear.
“That’s not why people join the National Trust. I’m a civil engineer and it’s total rubbish for coffee to fall into the sea. It won’t in a million years.
Paul Brown, who has run the Middle Beach Cafe with his two sisters since 1989, has been told by the organization that he will lose his business on January 2.
The current popular and thriving cafe has overlooked Middle Beach for 70 years
Andrew Parsons (pictured), a local parish councilor and retired civil engineer, has accused the National Trust of ‘a senseless act of vandalism’ over its plans to demolish the popular cafe
“The cafe is between 20 and 30 meters from the sea and there is a concrete ramp between the two.
“The National Trust has done very badly. They pursue an agenda that contradicts the wishes of the local community and their own remit.
‘Who knows what their ultimate goal is. There is no local support to tear down the cafe. It will be a very stupid act of vandalism when it happens.
Even though the building is currently 60ft back and 20ft above shore, the conservation body insists it will be vulnerable to erosion.
And since the policy of the Trust is to “live with” the erosion rather than trying to defend against it, the cafe will be bulldozed.
Famous children’s author Enid Blyton regularly vacations in the quaint Dorset village and is said to have stopped by the cafe for tea and cake.
The decision proved incredibly unpopular with the local community.
More than 1,000 people, including some National Trust members, had signed a petition calling for the cafe to be saved, but to no avail.
They believe the Trust should have spent around £15,000 reinforcing the gabion sea defenses rather than demolishing the cafe and forcing ten people out of their jobs.
More than 1,000 people, including some National Trust members, had signed a petition calling for the cafe to be saved, but to no avail
Even though the building is currently 60ft back and 20ft above shore, the conservation body insists it will be vulnerable to erosion. Pictured: Visible coastal defense protecting the cafe
The cafe will be demolished under the National Trust’s controversial ‘managed pension’ policy
Three generations of Sarah Riding have used coffee over the years. She posted on social media: “Total rubbish. NT excuses us all queuing at their parking lot type cafe right on the nearby beach.
‘For most of us this building and site is worthy of heritage, 3 generations of my family loved this place. Shame on you NT.’
The Trust has submitted a planning application to Dorset Council to set up a mobile catering unit further down the Middle Beach car park as a temporary alternative to the cafe.
It is believed to be a walk-in unit that will be staffed by two people and will offer hot drinks and a limited menu.
Mr Brown has refused to bid for the new unit and will be out of work when his cafe lease expires on January 2.
There was a Middle Beach cafe in Studland, Dorset, for over 100 years, but it is now at risk of being razed. Pictured: Mr Brown and Mr Parsons outside the cafe
Famous children’s author Enid Blyton regularly vacations in the quaint Dorset village and is said to have stopped by the cafe for tea and cake. Pictured: The nearby Knoll House hotel where the author is believed to be staying
The 58-year-old said: ‘The National Trust has decided the time has come to get rid of coffee. It is the end. That’s 10 jobs all gone.
“I’m sad to say goodbye, but I can’t fight nature and I certainly can’t fight the National Trust.
“We tried – there were petitions – but it didn’t work. In the long run, the Trust isn’t wrong, but it isn’t right either.
A National Trust spokesperson said: ‘Coastal erosion at Middle Beach has reached the point where the current facilities are now on the edge of the cliff and will soon become dangerous, so this move is to ensure continuity of the coffee facilities and toilets for visitors. ‘
Julie Peters, Studland Project Manager for the National Trust, said: “Our cafe tenant has provided an incredible offer to visitors over the years. His lease is coming to an end soon and he has decided not to tender for a new offer, which we hope to have in place early in the new year.
“Unfortunately, climate change is having a visible impact on the coastline here and even the presence of the current sea defenses has failed to prevent the change in recent years. At high tide, there is often very little beach.
“However, in Middle Beach, the problems are not just due to sea level rise, but also to changing weather conditions of drought and then torrential rains, which caused significant erosion of the cliffs.
Meanwhile, Tracey Churcher, chief executive of the National Trust in Purbeck, said: “While we may not be able to prevent the impacts of climate change, we are working pragmatically to continue to provide the facilities our visitors come to expect. ‘wait.
“The best way to achieve this is to move the facilities to another location before erosion creates safety issues and unfortunately we are now close to that point.”