Opposition grows to cafe demolition

THE ROW over plans to knock down the Wish Tower Cafe in Eastbourne deepened this week as opposition against the demolition continues to grow.

Eastbourne Borough Council has already declared the cafe is beyond repair and should be pulled down to make way for a new building.

But those plans have proved unpopular, with protestors asking for the seafront landmark to be refurbished and restored to its former glory.

Among them is John Foyle, whose father Gilbert Foyle paid for the cafe to be built as a memorial to the thousands of Eastbourne people killed or injured during the Second World War.

The Eastbourne Society is the latest group to declare its opposition to the demolition.

The society, which aims to protect and promote the town’s built heritage, believes the council has acted too hastily and has lodged a formal objection to the demolition application which will go before the council’s planning committee.

The council’s application described the cafe as “life expired” and proposes demolition of the building and the distinctive balcony which projects over the promenade.

An article in the forthcoming spring edition of the society’s magazine, the Eastbourne Society Observer, comments on the council’s handling of the cafe saga and says it “regrets the shameful lack of maintenance of the cafe over the past 30 years”.

The article points out that it is council practice not to allow the demolition of a building in a conservation area without a replacement receiving consent.

A spokesperson for the society said, “A developer may indeed be found to provide a replacement new building, but until this happens the society believes that demolition should not take place.

“There may, for example, be another developer who, armed with a full structural survey, might decide that renovation and enhancement of the existing building would provide an attractive and profitable venue.”

The Meads Community Association has also formally objected to the demolition plans.

Chairman Russell Riseley said, “Applications to demolish are almost invariably accompanied by plans for redevelopment.

“This application gives no reason why the existing premises should be demolished at this time nor any indication of how and when it is planned that the site will be redeveloped.

“The Planning Advice Note of Feb 2009 states the council consider there to be considerable potential for alternative development to create a more suitable structure to complement the Wish Tower with a use which will provide an attraction to visitors and enhance the character and appearance of this part of the seafront.

“In the absence of any compelling reason, for example it being structurally unsound, we consider demolition to be completely unjustifiable at this stage.”

Observations on the demolition proposal can be made to the council’s planning department by March 16.

The controversy surrounding the building was thrashed out at last week’s meeting of the council when Conservative councillors urged a rethink before pulling the building down.

Tory councillor Barry Taylor raised Meads residents’ concerns about the handling of the proposed demolition of the landmark building.

He complained that members had not been given the opportunity to see detailed estimates for either the proposed demolition or an option to re commission the site for the 2012 season.

The Lib Dem cabinet decided to demolish the building before Christmas but the opposition called for the matter to be sent back to cabinet to be reconsidered.

Lib Dems ignored calls for further consideration and voted down the request at the full council meeting last week with a majority of 15 to 12.

Lib Dem Cllr Steve Wallis said he was in favour of the demolition and added, “This building is an ugly building.

“There are lots of gems on our seafront and this is not one of them. The sooner we get this eyesore removed from the seafront the better.”