Published: 09:02, 12 October 2021
| Updated: 14:45, 12 October 2021
The owners of a café have hit out at a Tonbridge and Malling Borough Council's scheme to open a rival venue, saying it could destroy their business.
The authority has approved the plans for a new lakeside café and watersports facility at Leybourne Lakes Country Park, near Snodland.
The new facility will cost £880,000 but the council will only pay for 10%, as the remainder will be covered by developer contributions.
The single-storey sustainable building will be located on the northwest corner of the park's Lake Ocean and the authority states it will be a place for people to relax and enjoy refreshments all year-round.
Facilities include a café, changing rooms, toilets, and two existing containers on site which will be used as storage of water sports equipment.
Councillors said the café was a long-awaited addition to the country park.
Cllr David Thornewell (Lib Dem) supported the "excellent facilities", adding: "It seems to me that there are really no objections on the planning grounds from anyone and in fact, I think that is because it reflects the support there is in the general community in the country park and get a café there."
Cllr Paul Hickmott (Lab) described it as a "great step forward" as Larkfield and Snodland would finally be able to benefit from proper facilities at the park.
Cllr David Lettington (Con) added he was "very pleased to see the high standards of environmental concerns that have been taken into account".
The construction is planned to begin in January and the council anticipates that the facility will open between late spring and early summer next year.
But not everyone has welcomed the news. The owners of the existing café at the park - Leybourne Lakes Café - have expressed their dismay with the council's plans on social media.
They also created an online petition asking the council to allow them to run the new eatery, which received 2500 signatures.
According to the petition, "the owners of the existing café at Leybourne Lakes have built their business over the last five years and have not been consulted about the new café planned for the park.
"They have just been informed that TM Active will be running the café and as a direct result they will lose their business.
"This is a disgraceful act by the council to destroy a small family business and profit from their hard work over the last five years.
"We the users of the park wish to see the café remain in the hands of the current business Leybourne Lakes Café."
Tonbridge and Malling Borough Council said it did not anticipate competition created by the new café being an issue, as the existing eatery was a long-established business.