A ROW has broken out over the future of tea rooms at an antique and crafts shopping centre.
The owners of Chesapeake Mill in Wickham plan to create a new tea room by expanding into the neighbouring Mill House.
As reported in The News, Winchester City Council granted the historic mill’s owners, Chesapeake Mill Limited, permission for an 18-seat tea room in the grade II listed building.
But the couple who have been running the mill’s existing tea room for the past seven years say they are stunned that they are now being kicked out.
Lee Denford runs the business with his partner Sally Stamp, but said they were told once the planning permission was approved, they were given their notice to leave by May 1.
Mr Denford, 45, said: ‘After that date, we’re out of work. This is what both of us do for a living. I’ve never been out of work.’
He explained how the couple had built up the tea room at the site in Bridge Street from scratch, renting the space, like all the other traders based at the mill, and had expanded it a few years ago.
‘When we started this seven years ago, there was really nothing there for the customers,’ he said.
‘It suited us and it suited them for us to move in and set up a professional tea room.’
But when they struggled to fill the expanded space, asked if they could stop renting it, and were refused.
He added: ‘They’ve been making a great deal about creating three new jobs, but we’ve got eight staff, four full-time and four part-time, that will lose theirs.
‘We spoke to the planning officer at Winchester City Council who has been dealing with this case, and he told us that he hadn’t been told the tea room was run independently.
‘But he said that the application is for the building, not the people.’
A spokesman for the mill said an outside room had been created for the tea room at great expense to the owners, but had then been rarely used.
He said: ‘There’s a contradiction there – nobody who builds up a strong business wants to reduce its size.
‘It’s a great location here and we want to make the most of our business for our customers, and we felt they weren’t making the most of their outside space.
‘It’s unfortunate that they’ve chosen to air this rather than speak to us.
‘We haven’t got anything against them.
‘It’s a business decision.’