Monday, 18 December 2017

Cafe’s future looks bleak

THE manager of a cafe based at the former Henley Youth Centre claims it has been “forgotten” and will have

THE manager of a cafe based at the former Henley Youth Centre claims it has been “forgotten” and will have to close.

The HOT (Henley-on-Thames) Frog cafe will be open until July but Carolyne Neighbour believes its fate is sealed as the centre has closed and the site is due to be sold for development.

The Thamesfield Youth Association, which owns the Deanfield Avenue centre, announced in June that it could no longer afford the £45,000-a-year running costs.

Since then the café has not found a new home and Mrs Neighbour said: “We’re going to lose the site. There’s nowhere else on the horizon because of what we are and what we do.

“I’ve put blood and tears into the cafe and suddenly it’s taken from under our noses because at the end of the day it’s worth too much as building land and that seems to be much more important these days.



“We will carry on giving a good service and good food until the end — we will not give up — but certainly by the middle of July it will be gone because there’s nowhere else, the café will be finished. It’s a shame that it has been forgotten.”

The café is the responsibility of Henley Social Enterprise, a not-for-profit organisation run by staff at The Henley College as a community hub and to give special needs students work experience. It has two paid staff, three regular volunteers and a pool of about 15 students from the college’s Pathways course.

It opened in November 2010 and serves 20 to 30 customers a day.

Mrs Neighbour, who has managed the café for three years, said: “We’re not a money-making business, we’re a social enterprise, but nobody is interested because we don’t make money. But we’re really important for young adults with special needs.

“I’m not saying they should keep this building for us but what would be really nice is if whoever bought this place could put us somewhere else or do something.

“The social aspect of it has grown and it’s fantastic. If you come here you’ll see the mix of people we have. There’s nowhere else in Henley like it. We’re not a profit business — our profits are in changing lives and giving the kids the confidence to find work.” Sue Bishop, finance director at the college, said no suitable or affordable premises for the café had been found.

“Now we’re not just asking for money to keep us operating, we need new premises, so we have got a double whammy,” she added.

The youth centre land has been allocated 25 homes under the joint Henley and Harpsden neighbourhood plan. The college owns derelict land behind the site and Thames Water a small parcel beyond that.

Steve Smith, a partner at Haslams chartered surveyors, who are to market the site, said offers would be invited but developers had already shown interest.

“The method of sale will be by informal tender. We are not giving a guide price,” he said. “We haven’t solicited offers — people have become aware of the potentially availability of the site and contacted us.”

The youth centre moved to Deanfield Avenue in 1961 from Thamesfield House in Wargrave Road after the association was promised an annual contribution towards it overheads from Oxfordshire County Council.

The trustees blamed the centre’s closure on the council’s decision in 2011 to withdraw its annual £25,000 grant.The council denied this.

THE manager of a café based at the former Henley Youth Centre claims it has been “forgotten” and will have to close.

The HoT (Henley-on-Thames) Frog Cafe will be open until July but Carolyne Neighbour believes its fate is sealed as the centre has closed and the site is due to be sold for development.

The Thamesfield Youth Association, which owns the Deanfield Avenue centre, announced in June that it could no longer afford the £45,000-a-year running costs.

Since then the café has not found a new home and Mrs Neighbour said: “We’re going to lose the site. There’s nowhere else on the horizon because of what we are and what we do.

“I’ve put blood and tears into the cafe and suddenly it’s being taken from under our noses because at the end of the day it’s worth too much as building land and that seems to be much more important these days. We will carry on giving a good service and good food until the end — we will not give up — but certainly by the middle of July it will be gone because there’s nowhere else, the café will be finished. It’s a shame that it has been forgotten.”

The café is the responsibility of Henley Social Enterprise, a not-for-profit organisation run by staff at The Henley College as a community hub and to give special needs students work experience. It has two paid staff, three regular volunteers and a pool of about 15 students from the college’s Pathways course.

It opened in November 2010 and serves 20 to 30 customers a day. Mrs Neighbour, who has managed the café for three years, said: “We’re not a money-making business, we’re a social enterprise, but nobody is interested because we don’t make money. But we’re really important for young adults with special needs.

“I’m not saying they should keep this building for us but what would be really nice is if whoever bought this place could put us somewhere else or do something.

“The social aspect of it has grown and it’s fantastic. If you come here you’ll see the mix of people we have. There’s nowhere else in Henley like it. We’re not a profit business — our profits are in changing lives and giving the kids the confidence to find work.”

Sue Bishop, finance director at the college, said no suitable or affordable premises for the café had been found, adding: “Now we’re not just asking for money to keep us operating, we need new premises, so we have got a double whammy.”

The youth centre land has been allocated 25 homes under the joint Henley and Harpsden neighbourhood plan. The college owns derelict land behind the site and Thames Water a small parcel beyond that.

Haslams chartered surveyors are to market the site and developers have already shown interest.

The youth centre moved to Deanfield Avenue in 1961 from Thamesfield House in Wargrave Road after the association was promised an annual contribution towards its overheads from Oxfordshire County Council.

The trustees blamed the centre’s closure on the council’s decision in 2011 to withdraw its annual £25,000 grant. The council denied this.

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