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Council leader warns charity ‘will be out’ by February without rent deal

A council leader says his authority will force a community cafe for people with learning disabilities to leave its premises unless a new rent agreement can be found.

Ashfield District Council and Rumbles Cafe have been in a dispute over proposed fees for the building the organisation uses at Sutton Lawn.

The cafe provides work experience and support to people with learning difficulties and special educational needs.

It has operated in the popular park for 16 years and also has another enterprise at Vicar Water in Clipstone.

But the group has now been in dispute with the Ashfield Independent-led council since September 2022 about the sums it pays to use the Sutton Lawn building.

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Rumbles Community Cafe in Sutton Lawn

The cafe, as a charitable organisation, had paid a ‘peppercorn’ fee of about £50 per year to lease its base from the authority.

The charity was originally told last year its fees would rise by 14,000 per cent to £7,000, before now saying the latest cost is even higher, at about £10,000.

Charity bosses say this is an “unaffordable” and “unrealistic” sum and came despite the organisation at first agreeing to pay the £7,000 fee.

Negotiations then broke down earlier this year over who is responsible for the building’s on-site toilets.

A board at Rumbles Cafe urging the public to safe the charity from closure

Council bosses say the charity should be responsible as the facilities are primarily used by the cafe’s customers.

However, the charity says complexities around liability insurance make it difficult to take over the toilets and warned taking them on could “bankrupt” the enterprise.

They also say the facilities are used by other organisations like local football teams, so the council should be responsible for maintaining them.

The authority’s leader says the toilet row is “bonkers” and insists other organisations in different parks are asked to manage their on-site facilities.

And after months of unsuccessful negotiations, the council has now issued the charity with a final six-month warning about eviction.

Councillor Jason Zadrozny (Ash Ind), who leads the authority, says the charity has until early February to agree to a new fee or it “will be out”.

He said: “We served them legal process on August 8.

“This gave them six months from that date to either pay the increased rent or come around with a new offer we can accept.

“If they don’t then yes, they will be out and we will be looking for a new provider to make sure the cafe and the public toilets stay there for local residents.”

His comments came after charity users, bosses and union representatives held a protest before the full council meeting on Monday (September 25).

Demonstrators could be heard chanting ‘Save Our Rumbles’ and showed a petition with thousands of signatures calling for the cafe to be protected.

Rhea Keehn, co-founder of the Friends of Rumbles community action group, said: “We really want the council to listen to the public.

“Nearly 8,000 people have signed the petition so we want [the council] to think about what it’s doing and stop looking to put profit into its pockets.

“The council needs to protect the cafe because it’s a fantastic resource and it’s a real gem and treasure of our community.”

Among the protestors was Grace Mitchell, 25, who works at Rumbles in Sutton Lawn and previously also worked at the charity’s Clipstone site.

“It’s more or less where I’ve grown up and what I’ve known for the last seven years. We’re all so close as a family,” she said.

“The council should change its minds, we’re worth saving and worth supporting.”

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