Sheffield park café's long-awaited return gets the go-ahead

The shelter in Whirlowbrook Park which is to be converted into a caf
The shelter in Whirlowbrook Park which is to be converted into a caf
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Plans to open a new café in Sheffield's Whirlowbrook Park five years after its predecessor closed controversially have taken a step forward.

The council has approved proposals to convert a disused shelter next to the park's access road into a new place selling food and drinks, with building work expected to start soon.

How the old bus shelter in Whirlowbrook Park could look once converted and extented to create a caf

How the old bus shelter in Whirlowbrook Park could look once converted and extented to create a caf

When the venue shut in the park’s old hall, dismayed customers mounted a 1,500-signature petition in protest and Nick Clegg, then MP for Sheffield Hallam, took up the cause.

Whirlowbrook Hall was then taken over by Saxon Hotels, which signed a 25-year lease in 2013 with the council to take over the building as a wedding and events venue. While the deal did not include reopening the public café in the hall itself - with its terrace and views down the valley - the company promised to provide a replacement.

Afternoon teas have been served in the hall, and a temporary hut was laid on in the car park during summer months serving refreshments, but a permanent solution has not emerged until now.

Paul Brown, director of Saxon Hotels, said an operator with previous experience of running a Sheffield café had been lined up, and their name would be revealed when the lease is signed.

"The quality will be exactly what visitors to the park will need, and it will encourage people to come to the park just for the café," he said.

Mr Brown said he hoped the public would be supportive, reiterating an appeal made when the plan was first announced earlier this year.

"It's a shame it's taken so long but I think it will be worth it. All the other options would have resulted in something too small. It will be great if local people can support it - because local people will be running it."

Decking would be laid around the shelter, with timber-clad shipping containers installed at the side to create more room. A disabled toilet would be provided, while plans have indicated three tables inside with sofa-style seating, and five outside.

Hot and cold sandwiches, soups, salads, quiche and cakes will be on the menu, with opening hours envisaged of 8pm to 5pm, Monday to Saturday.

Paul said an opening date had not yet been set, but the conversion would take six to eight weeks once final details were confirmed with the council.

Coun Mary Lea, the council's cabinet member for culture, parks and leisure, said the authority was 'extremely supportive' of the proposals and that she was glad permission had been granted.

“This is something we have been working with the applicants on for some time, in order to get the design right for this area of significant natural beauty," she added.

"It was very important to us that any development should fit sympathetically into the setting of the historic park and garden, on the edge of the beautiful Limb Valley.

“We look forward to the café opening, and providing another high-quality facility for walkers, families, runners and cyclists enjoying a day out in Sheffield – The Outdoor City.”