Canal Centre Café
The Canal Centre Café it has been described as one of Surrey’s hidden gems and is used by canal visitors, walkers and campers. Whether it’s an English breakfast, sandwich, cream tea or coffee, it has been a welcome oasis away from the busy life in the nearby towns and villages. Its visitors enjoy the food & drink, together with outside seating and play park as part of the Canal Centre.
In September 2021 many were surprised to learn that the Café was “temporarily closed“. Although the landlord has not stated publicly its reason, the tenants have posted on the front door to the café is a sign that reads:
“Due to crazy rent increase, we have been forced to close. Thank you for all your business over the last 14 years. Mike & Leck.”
Residents complain to Surrey County Council
Residents have been advised by posts on social media that the Café was forced to close and that all may voice their concerns via James.Taylor@surreycc.gov.uk (Strategic Manager, Basingstoke Canal) & James.Hewings@surreycc.gov.uk (Commercial Surveyor, Land and Property).
Response from James Hewings
Both Mr Hewings and Mr Taylor were contacted, there were asked why this well-used outdoor amenity is reportedly closed due to rents being increased. The Council was asked to confirm that it is doing everything within it’s power to keep places like this open for everyone. In reply James Hewing, Commercial Surveyor, Land and Property said:
“Surrey County Council is continuing to support small businesses as Surrey recovers from the Covid pandemic. It has been supportive of all its tenants throughout lockdowns over the last 18 months and continues to remain open to discussion on how it can support local business. Council Officers are courteous and professional in their engagement and follow standard business practices in the industry. The Council is disappointed negotiations have broken down in relation to the Café and are in continued discussions with the tenant. The council is still very supportive of this ongoing amenity in this location however, the Council is obligated to maintain commercial confidentiality and cannot comment on the details of individual cases.”
No resolution in sight
Whilst negotiations appear to have broken down and the current tenant appears unwilling to accept the revised terms, the future of this local amenity is uncertain. While a new tenant may be found in time, many are concerned that the increased rents make a Café in this location unviable, resulting in the permanent closure. Residents continue to write to Mr Hewings and Mr Taylor and posting on social media to implore the Joint Management Committee to do everything they can to restore this café back to use as soon as Possible.
Who is responsible for managing the Canal and its facilities
The Basingstoke Canal is jointly owned by and Hampshire & Surrey County Councils and was set up in 1992.
The Basingstoke Canal Authority (BCA), Basingstoke Canal as a managing agent on behalf of the two County Councils. The BCA has no legal or corporate identity itself and the staff of the BCA are employed by Hampshire County Council and work to their financial, health and safety and governance policies.
The Canal Partnership comprises the two County Councils and six local Borough and District Councils (Hart, Rushmoor, Guildford, Surrey Heath, Woking and Runnymede). These Councils provide the revenue funding and supervisory management for the BCA through the Basingstoke Canal Joint Management Committee (JMC).