FUNDING will be sought to turn a section of the Whitworth Centre into a deli-style cafe in a bid to turn its financial fortunes around, it has been announced.
Despite well-documented criticism of the plans for an eaterie, the board of trustees responsible for the running of the centre is adamant a viable business is required to keep the centre afloat.
It costs hundreds of pounds a day to keep the Whitworth Centre open, and last year posted a loss of nearly £25,000.
The aim now is to transform the terrace area of the building –which overlooks the picturesque park – into the cafe with indoor seating for more than 60 people, and just as many outside.
If grant applications are successful, work could begin in the next 12 months.
During the last Darley Dale Town Council meeting, Cllr Dave Oakley spoke against the idea, questioning the potential £200,000 cost and its sustainability.
County councillor, Mike Longden, has since raised concern at the disharmony and the year-on-year financial loss of the Whitworth Centre.
But Paul Diggle, who is a town councillor and chairman of the board of trustees, is adamant the money would be sought through grants, and only a nominal consultancy fee paid by the trust.
He said: “The board has agreed with the concept of a cafe, but we have not agreed to spend £200,000. We don’t have that sort of money.
“I have no problem with people disagreeing, but then we need them to come up with an alternative suggestion.
“Our overall aim is to become self financing rather than reliant on grants.
“This is not an idea that’s been plucked out of thin air, it’s been researched.
“This is a realistic aspiration, I feel it’s low risk to the trust in that we are only risking a consultancy fee. If I did not feel confident I would not be involved.”
Tim Bown-Brownridge, business manager of the centre, said action is urgently needed to claw back continuous losses.
He said: “Doing nothing is not an option, we have three years left at best.
“Some people have said that a cafe won’t be used, but we have more than 100 people using the Whitworth Centre every day now.
“If it’s done right, we hope it will be at the heart of the community.”