Park legend Mavis fears Crow Nest cafe and museum sell-off

Park legend Mavis fears Crow Nest cafe and museum sell-off

THE woman whose cafe has been at the heart of the regeneration of Dewsbury’s Crow Nest Park fears that Kirklees Council has a hidden agenda to sell it, along with the adjoining museum.

Mavis Secker has been hoping to retire since last year, after she was lucky to survive a heart attack. But despite Kirklees giving her permission to sell the cafe lease, she says the new conditions they’ve imposed make it impossible to find a new tenant.

Said Mavis: “I’ve had lots of people interested in taking the business on. I thought we had it sold, but then Kirklees produced a five-year lease that gives them the option to kick the new owners out after just two years. No-one in their right mind would buy a business on those terms.”

Kirklees have refused to comment on any specific plans for the museum and cafe, except to say they are committed to safeguarding the future of the park.

Mavis, 67, and her daughter Jane, took over the almost derelict building 19 years ago and have transformed it, during a period when Crow Nest Park has been restored to its former glories – with substantial help and investment from the council.

However, they have spent thousands themselves, and were hoping to recoup some of their own investment.

Added Mavis: “It’s cost us a fortune in estate agents’ and solicitors’ fees as well, but we can’t even find out who at Kirklees is doing this. In the past, the council staff have been fantastic, so helpful to us.”

As well as the two-year break-out clause, Kirklees now also insists on removing sole catering rights from the cafe and making the new leaseholder responsible for external sewers and drains, which service the building and the park’s only toilets.

Mavis went on: “We’ve spent a fortune on this building and I wouldn’t mind but the park can’t get Green Flag status unless it has a cafe and toilets.”

Kirklees has taken huge pride in Crow Nest Park winning national recognition. Mavis’s solicitor, Jeffrey Myers of Levi Solicitors, told Mavis: “After examining the previous lease under which you occupy the property, I am very disappointed by the council’s stance.”

Regarding the break-out clause he said: “I am extremely surprised that the council expect to be entitled to terminate the lease as well. This is a very unusual requirement.”

He added: “If the business is thriving and the rent being paid, why on earth would the council wish to exercise the break clause?”

Mr Myers said that to “potentially blight the cafe from being sold in this way” could even result in its closure.

The museum next door is still partly closed after a roof collapse exactly two years ago.

Mavis added: “It wouldn't surprise me if they were trying to sell off the museum and cafe.”

In the meantime – despite having her ‘retirement thank-you party’ before Christmas, Mavis and daughter Jane are having to soldier on, while potential new owners appear thwarted by the council’s stance.

A council spokesperson said: “The council are committed to a positive future for Crow Nest Park, the buildings within it and the museum service as a whole.

“Negotiations with the leaseholder are ongoing and any decision made will safeguard the future of the park.”

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