Graves Park: Campaign to save Sheffield’s popular Rose Garden Cafe calls for answers from city council
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Liz Hnat is chair of Save the Rose Garden Cafe, a group set up after the popular venue was closed when structural issues were discovered in the building.
The cafe is run by Sheffield-based firm Brewkitchen.
The campaign is working to make sure that the closure does not become permanent. The council has said it is committed to running a cafe in the park in the long term.
Liz said: “At the moment we’re finding it quite frustrating. We’re not getting any communication from the council, they’re not responding to our questions.
“They’re not really working with Brewkitchen to help them. If there’s a temporary set-up they have to pay for it or if not they will find another operator. It’s quite disgraceful.”
She said that a meeting has been set up with Sheffield City Council leader Councillor Terry Fox on August 25: “We’re going to meet and talk to them and see what’s happening and forwarding our demands again.
“Hopefully that will get some movement from the council.”
Liz said that the group want to ensure that 5,000 people from Sheffield sign their online petition at change.org calling for the council to “repair, not demolish” the cafe.
‘We want to stop demolition’
More than 6,800 have signed but if 5,000 people from Sheffield sign, it will trigger a debate in the full council.
A public meeting held in the Rose Garden attracted more than 200 people.
“We want to stop demolition and ensure it’s repaired and help Brewkitchen to get a temporary fix up as soon as possible, just to keep the place and make sure it carries on,” said Liz.
The campaign have been looking at the accounts lodged with the Charity Commission by the Graves Park Charitable Trust, of which the council is the sole trustee.
The park was one of many gifts to the city from Alderman John George Graves. He bought the park in 1925 for the people of Sheffield and the cafe was built two years later.
Liz said that the trust had not spent any of its income on upkeep of the building, although other improvements had been made, including to footpaths and signage.She said that Brewkitchen had spent money on the building, renovating the interior and also undertaking electrical works only weeks before the cafe was closed.
“They’re doing what they can and what’s in their remit. The exterior hasn’t been maintained at all by the council. It’s just awful.
“They had that structural report for four weeks and they rang the cafe and said, ‘you’ve got 15 minutes to get out’. They had to get themselves and customers out.
‘Where has that money been spent?’
“The council have changed the locks and they can’t get back in.”
Liz added: “They have had £350,000 in rent and profits over 14 years. Where has that money been spent? Why hasn’t that been spent on the building?
“It’s really just a massive failure of their role as trustees of the park.”
She said the campaign is looking into lodging a formal complaint with the Charity Commission but its rules say all other channels must be exhausted first.
Liz, who lives next to the park in Norton and visits most days, wants to see the building retained rather than replaced: “That building itself isn’t even 100 years old but it is iconic to the park.”
She explained why she decided to campaign to keep the cafe open: “After I had my kids I struggled a bit, I couldn’t leave the house, I felt like I couldn’t cope.
‘It was a lifeline’
“The support worker I saw suggested I plan a really short journey and I said, ‘the Rose Garden Cafe is my goal today’.
“It was a lifeline to get out of the house and being able to cope with two small children. It was spacious and I could take my pram in, I could change the kids there and it had all the facilities I needed.”
She said that the cafe is an important meeting place for lots of groups who go walking in the park as well as families and visitors. Families with disabled children also find it very user-friendly.”
Liz said: “This space is just so important. We’re very lucky to live where we do.”
She personally wouldn’t want to see a replacement, even by a more eco-friendly building. “It adds to the character of the park. It’s part of it. To knock it down, we’ve taken away from the feel of the park.
"It shouldn’t have got to this point. That building is part of the park, it shouldn’t be taken away.”
Liz said that the campaign is working alongside the Friends of Graves Park: “They have had a lot of experience with Sheffield City Council. They’ve seen this happen time and time again.
“It’s best for them to be exploring funding options as they’re a registered charity and we’re just a campaign.
“We’re the voice and face and publicity and they’re doing the serious hard work.”
The Friends group have set up a fundraiser on justgiving.com for repairs that now stands at more than £3,100.
Sheffield City Council and Brewkitchen have both been approached for comment.
The council has stated previously that no decision has been made on the building and that discussions are taking place to look at every option for the cafe.