A MIDHURST cafe owner is reluctantly closing her doors because of restrictions placed on her by the Cowdray Estate.
Caroline Cheshire opened Fitzcane’s ice cream parlour in Grange Road 18 months ago in the former Frankie’s Cafe and it became an overnight success.
It sits between the entrance to the Post Office car park and a private home rented from the Cowdray Estate, with a garage attached.
Outside the cafe is a courtyard, not registered with the land registry, where cafe owners have always placed tables and chairs.
But Caroline ran into trouble when she put up bunting, fairy lights and a menu board on the wall of the house and a picket fence around the courtyard to keep children from running into the path of cars using the car park next door.
She was told to remove them all.
“I was naive,” said Caroline, “our lease did say we could not advertise and the menu board was advertising – perhaps I did things I should not have done and made mistakes in my over eagerness as a new business. But my customers loved everything we did and I didn’t think I was harming anyone.
“We have a wonderful relationship with the tenants and they gave us permission to hang things on the wall.
“The last straw came when we were told to take down the picket fence because the Cowdray Estate said it needed access to the garage at all times.
“This was despite the fact the present tenant does not have a car and neither did the previous one.
“We need that courtyard – we can’t run the business without it and removing the fence puts our customers at risk.
“When we got the letter about the fence I decided I couldn’t carry on.”
She said these were challenging times for businesses in Midhurst.
“The changes in management of the Cowdray Estate sadly means that more than ever it is being run as a business focussed on profit. Chichester District Council is constantly having its budgets cut and making decisions such as increasing parking charges which are detrimental to Midhurst businesses.
“The probable loss of the planned Waitrose supermarket is another big blow.”
The cafe will close on March 19, but Caroline has promised her customers she will be back.
“We will be bigger and better and hopefully open somewhere new for the summer.
“Fitzcane’s had a successful first 18 months in business for which I’d like to thank my five wonderful staff, supportive Grange Road neighbours and our wonderfully supportive customers.”
Chief executive of the Cowdray Estate, Jonathan Russell said the estate had not stopped Fitzcane’s trading from the courtyard.
“Whilst the property currently housing Fitzcane’s is owned by the Cowdray Estate, it is occupied on a sub tenancy basis and as such there is no direct contractual relationship between the Estate and Mrs Cheshire. Any specific contractual issues at the property are therefore a matter between the tenant and the sub tenant for whom a direct contractual relationship exists.
“A residential property owned by the Estate lies adjacent to Fitzcane’s. The Estate, via the tenant, has previously requested Mrs Cheshire does not block access to the property’s garage via the storing of outdoor tables and chairs which obstructs the garage doors. We have at no time requested these tables and chairs be removed from, or Fitzcane’s ceases trading from, the courtyard and pavement area.
“The Estate has further requested the removal of various items, including chalk drawings, from the wall of the adjacent property. These had been erected without prior discussion or approval.”
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