Friends group to take over tea rooms project?

THE Friends of Belper River Gardens is holding a meeting on Monday to discuss the viability of taking over the running of the Swiss tea rooms project.

At a meeting of Amber Valley Borough Council, the authority controversially chose McNeil Beechey O’Neill (MBO) as its architect to re-design the tea rooms in Belper’s River Gardens.

This was despite opposition from members of the public and the Friends’ group, and also despite a different company coming top of a public survey asking which architect should get the job.

Trevor Griffin, chairman of the Friends, voiced the group’s opposition to MBO being selected.

Now, the Friends is to meet to see if it could feasibly take over the project. It comes on the back of a council recommendation which said: “That in the alternative, the various interested organisations referred to in the report, led by the Friends group, be invited to submit to the council their collectively agreed proposals to take over the refurbishment and running of the Swiss Tea House on terms, and within a timetable, to be discussed with officers.”

Janet Honey, of the Friends, said she could not comment in detail until after the meeting had taken place, but added: “It is quite possible for a community group like ours to take over this sort of thing, but we need to know exactly what the council means with its words.

“We need to discuss it and find out exactly what it would entail.”

Speaking about the council’s choice of architect, Janet said: “That was not our preferred choice.

“But they were just appointing the architect, not the design. So maybe something might change.”

A council spokesman said a meeting between the Friends and the council would take place in the near future.

Belper Mayor Cllr Alan Cox spoke at latest meeting of the borough council and lavished praise upon McNeil Beechey O’Neill.

He claimed that the public’s choice of Lathams was not a clear winner — despite polling the most votes in a survey.

The council was slammed by opposition members for not including the Friends group during the selection process.

The MBO design was a two-storey Y-shaped building.

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