Anger as National Trust seeks to replace Britain’s oldest beach cafe with ‘burger van’

Paul Brown and Andrew Parsons who work at Britain's oldest beach cafe set to close by the National Trust - BNPS

Paul Brown and Andrew Parsons who work at Britain’s oldest beach cafe set to close by the National Trust – BNPS

The National Trust has come under fire over plans to demolish Britain’s oldest beach cafe and replace it with a “burger van”.

For almost 120 years, visitors to Middle Beach in Studland, Dorset, have been able to stop in for a hot drink and a bite to eat.

But on January 2, it will close for good as part of the National Trust’s “managed retreat” strategy for coastal erosion.

Despite the building being 50 feet back and 20 feet above the shoreline, the Trust says it is vulnerable to erosion.

Instead of strengthening the sea defenses to protect the cafe from the threat of falling into the sea, the organization will tear it down.

In its place, the Trust proposed a temporary mobile catering hut set up further down the car park.

The newly revealed plans for what the new facility will look like have not been liked by local residents and visitors.

“The old cafe was perfect”

Andrew Parsons, a local parish councilor and retired civil engineer, said: “Their plan is to replace a beautiful historic cafe with a million dollar view with a shed in the parking lot.

“I know it’s temporary, but above all, the cafe shouldn’t be demolished.

“Whatever they decide to build permanently will be in their vision of the world, the old coffee shop was perfect.”

Martin Williams, who lives in nearby Swanage, said: “To get rid of a well-used, working coffee shop and replace it with this is disgraceful.

“Our NT membership will not be renewed.”

Sharon Stanley said, “Bring back a Middle Beach cafe serving good, affordable food and hot drinks with friendly service instead of this proposed monster.”

Beverley Jane, after seeing the plans, posted on social media: “FFS, it’s a burger van.”

Another local resident said: “So this is a teaser with some portaloos. Well done, National Trust. You’re shutting down a lovely institution and replacing it with something that looks like it belongs in the cove.”

A proposed food trailer that has been described by locals as a

A proposed food trailer that has been described by locals as a “burger van” – BNPS

The 8-foot-tall, 20-foot replacement cabin will be placed next to the picnic area, overlooking Old Harry Rocks, and will be landscaped to create seating for customers.

The closure of an existing coffee shop next week will also result in the loss of ten jobs.

Ten jobs to lose

Paul Brown, who has run the cafe with his two sisters since 1989, admitted there was nothing he could do to prevent the closure.

He said: “The National Trust has decided it’s time to get rid of the cafe. It’s over. Ten jobs have disappeared.

“I’m sorry to say goodbye but I can’t fight nature and I definitely can’t fight the National Trust.

“We tried – there were petitions – but it didn’t work. In the long run, the Trust is right, but also wrong.”

More than 1,000 people, including some National Trust members with cards, signed a petition calling for the cafe to be saved.

Locals believe the National Trust should have raised the money to strengthen the coastal defenses and protect the historic café.

The cafe has drawn many visitors to Middle Beach in Dorset - BNPS

The cafe has drawn many visitors to Middle Beach in Dorset – BNPS

Tracey Churcher, chief executive of the National Trust in Purbeck, said: “While we cannot prevent the effects of climate change, we are working pragmatically to continue to provide the amenities our guests expect.

“The best way to do this is to move the facilities to another location before erosion causes safety issues, and unfortunately we’re getting close to that point.”

A planning statement submitted to Dorset Council on behalf of the applicant National Trust by Twelve Architects states: “The proposed demolition of the existing cafe buildings is necessary in light of the significant risk of building collapse due to coastal processes and slope instability.

“The removal of the building would not have a detrimental effect on the Studland Conservation Area.

“The temporary replacement facilities will ensure that Middle Beach continues to have dining and restroom facilities for a temporary period of three years, pending the finalization of proposals for a permanent replacement toilet facility.”

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