National Trust accused of ‘foolish act of vandalism’ over plans to flatten one of oldest beach cafes

Author: Yuvi November 21, 2022


The National Trust has been accused of ‘a foolish act of vandalism’ over its plans to demolish one of Britain’s oldest beach cafes in Dorset as part of their efforts to manage coastal erosion.

There has been a Middle Beach cafe in Studland, Dorset, for more than 100 years but it now faces being bulldozed as part of a controversial ‘managed retreat’ policy.

The currently popular and successful cafe has overlooked Middle Beach for the last 70 years.

However, it has reached its final chapter after the National Trust – which was handed it in 1982 as part of its biggest ever land donation, 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 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: ‘This is not what the National Trust should be doing. The Trust is meant to conserve buildings of historical value, not to autocratically decide to demolish them for reasons that are far from clear.

‘That’s not what people join the National Trust for. I am a civil engineer and it is so complete and utter rubbish that the cafe will fall into the sea. It won’t do that in a million years.

Paul Brown, who has run the Middle Beach Cafe with his two sisters since 1989, was told by the organization he would lose his business on January 2.

The current popular and successful cafe has overlooked Middle Beach for the last 70 years

The current popular and successful cafe has overlooked Middle Beach for the last 70 years

Andrew Parsons (pictured), a local parish councilor and retired civil engineer, accused the National Trust of 'a foolish act of vandalism' over its plans to demolish the popular cafe

Andrew Parsons (pictured), a local parish councilor and retired civil engineer, accused the National Trust of ‘a foolish act of vandalism’ over its plans to demolish the popular cafe

‘The cafe is between 20 meters to 30 meters away from the sea and there is a concrete ramp in between.

‘The National Trust has acted very badly indeed. They are pursuing an agenda which is at odds with the wishes of the local community and their own remit.

‘Who knows what their ultimate aim is. There is no local support for demolishing the cafe. It will be a very foolish act of vandalism when it happens.

Even though the building is currently 60ft back and 20ft above the shoreline, the conservation body insists it will be vulnerable to erosion.

And as the Trust’s policy is to ‘live with’ erosion rather than try to defend against it, the cafe will be bulldozed.

Famous children’s author Enid Blyton regularly holidays in the quaint Dorset village and would have visited the cafe for tea and cake.

The decision has 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 about £15,000 to bolster the gabion sea defenses there rather than demolish the cafe and force ten people out of work.

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

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 the shoreline, the conservation body insists it will be vulnerable to erosion.  Pictured: Coastal defense visible protecting the cafe

Even though the building is currently 60ft back and 20ft above the shoreline, the conservation body insists it will be vulnerable to erosion. Pictured: Coastal defense visible protecting the cafe

The cafe will be demolished as part of the National Trust's controversial 'managed retreat' policy

The cafe will be demolished as part of the National Trust’s controversial ‘managed retreat’ policy

Three generations of Sarah Riding have used the cafe over the years. She posted on social media: ‘Utter garbage. NT excuse to get us all queuing up in their car park-type cafe just up on the next beach.

‘To most of us this building and site IS heritage worthy, 3 generations of my family have loved this place. Shame on you NT.

The Trust has submitted a planning application to Dorset Council to put up a mobile catering unit further back in the car park at Middle Beach as a temporary alternative to the cafe.

It is believed that this will be a walk-up unit that will be staffed by two people and will offer hot drinks and a limited food menu.

Mr Brown declined to tender for the new unit and will be out of work when his lease for the cafe expires on January 2.

There has been a Middle Beach cafe in Studland, Dorset, for more than 100 years but it now faces being bulldozed.  Pictured: Mr Brown and Mr Parsons outside the cafe

There has been a Middle Beach cafe in Studland, Dorset, for more than 100 years but it now faces being bulldozed. Pictured: Mr Brown and Mr Parsons outside the cafe

Famous children's author Enid Blyton regularly holidays in the quaint Dorset village and would have visited the cafe for tea and cake.  Pictured: The nearby Knoll House Hotel where the author would stay

Famous children’s author Enid Blyton regularly holidays in the quaint Dorset village and would have visited the cafe for tea and cake. Pictured: The nearby Knoll House Hotel where the author would stay

The 58-year-old said: ‘The National Trust has decided that the time has come to get rid of the cafe. That’s the end of it. That’s 10 jobs all gone.

‘I’m sad to say goodbye, but I can’t fight nature and I definitely can’t fight the National Trust.

‘We’ve tried – there have been petitions – but it hasn’t worked. In the long term, the Trust is not wrong but it is also not right either.

A spokesperson for the National Trust said: ‘The coastal erosion at Middle Beach has reached the point whereby the current facilities are now on the cliff edge and will shortly become unsafe, so this move is about ensuring continuity of café and toilets facilities for visitors. ‘

Julie Peters, Studland project manager for the National Trust, said: ‘Our café tenant has provided an amazing offer for visitors over the years. His lease is shortly due to come to an end and he has decided not to put in a tender for a new offer, which we hope to have in place early in the New Year.

‘Sadly climate change is having a visible impact on the coastline at this location and even the presence of the current sea defenses has failed to prevent change over the last few years. At high tide, there is often very little beach at all.

‘However, at Middle Beach, the issues are not solely due to sea level rise, but also from the changing weather patterns of drought and then torrential rain, which has caused significant cliff erosion.’

Meanwhile, Tracey Churcher, general manager of the National Trust at Purbeck said: ‘Whilst we are unable to prevent the impacts of climate change, we are working in a pragmatic way to continue to provide the facilities that our visitors have come to expect.

‘The best way to do this is to move the facilities to an alternative location before the erosion creates safety issues and sadly we are now close to that point.’

21 November, 2022, 1:36 am

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