Amber Valley council defies critics to vote for River Gardens kiosk

The old tearooms at Belper River Gardens have been cordoned off due to the increasing risk of collapse.
The old tearooms at Belper River Gardens have been cordoned off due to the increasing risk of collapse.

An Amber Valley Borough Council committee has voted to push on with its planned kiosk in Belper River Gardens, but opponents say it could fall foul of heritage restrictions.

The matter was sent to the council’s scrutiny committee at the request of two councillors after the cabinet voted for officers to proceed with their preferred scheme in March.

A community interest company has been fundraising to build a full-sized caf� in the River Gardens, but now that may never happen.

A community interest company has been fundraising to build a full-sized caf� in the River Gardens, but now that may never happen.

The case came before the committee on Wednesday, June 6, and they voted to uphold the original decision, despite ongoing warnings that the plan may fail to meet obligations to the Derwent Valley Mills World Heritage Site.

Councillor Ben Bellamy said: “We called in the decision to try and ensure heritage partners were consulted before the design brief went to the architects, so that we don’t end up in the situation where we have before with designs getting rejected by Historic England and the World Heritage Site.

“I worry that we’re going down a blind alley again, coming up with new ideas at great expense and then still nothing will get built.”

He added: “Cabinet based its decision on a consultants’ report which said only a kiosk would be sustainable in a park this size, rather than something like the old structure.

“Many people felt the consultants did not take into account the heritage attraction, which is fundamental, and so underestimated the footfall potential for the business.”

The kiosk would represent a significantly smaller ambition than the café-style building which fundraising campaigners have pushed for.

A number of residents attended the meeting to voice their criticism of the plan.

Coun Bellamy said: “I believe the cabinet is genuine in wanting to see something built, but they are doing it backwards.

“The old building is now in a terrible state, but the best way to ensure something actually gets done about it is to start with a design which is supported by all parties.”

The council confirmed its intention in a statement saying: “Work on an exciting replacement for the derelict and collapsing Swiss Tea Rooms is finally set to commence.”

However, there are still several stages to go through. Officers will first use the Government’s Contracts Finder service to find firms that could design and build the kiosk.

Councillor Chris Short said: “This delay of almost three months has been extremely disappointing and, in my opinion, unnecessary. I am relieved we can now start to replace the derelict Swiss Tea Rooms with a viable refreshments facility.”

He added: “The approval to procure a replacement building at a cost of up to £290,000 is proportionate in the light of the findings of the specialist catering consultant.

“By using ‘design and build’ we will keep costs as low as possible and hope to make up for lost time.”