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by Michael Adkins, Assistant Editor (content)
Thursday, April 12, 2012
Campaigners gathered on Saturday to call on the council to rebuild a community cafe destroyed by arsonists.
The Woodlands Park cafe, off Dashwood Road, Gravesend, was gutted when fire ripped through the building in September last year.
Since then the council has announced they did not intend the replace it, prompting the campaign by residents such as retired art teacher Liz Howe.
She said: “It is heartbreaking to see nothing done six months after the cafe was burnt down. People are concerned the council may decide not to rebuild it and wonder why insurance money can’t be used.
“So many people of all ages used the cafe and it really brought new life to the park, what worries us is that if it remains as a charred patch of fenced-off ground it will encourage vandalism, people will stop using it and a vicious circle is created.”
Police treated the blaze as suspicious and arrested a man and woman soon after the incident.
They have since been released without charge.
The derelict cafe had been leased to St George’s School for their sixth form business project.
A Gravesham council spokesman said: “The council is pursuing plans to re-develop the former café site as a community facility including a small theatre.
“The council is also arranging temporary refreshment facilities on the site where the building was destroyed by arson last year.
“The building insurance money has been ring-fenced for the project on the site.”
Mrs Howe added: “We all want it rebuilt, local schools helped renovate the original cafe and I’m sure they would be willing to help again.
“Gravesham council prides itself on listening and involving the community, so please listen now.”
The campaign is supported by Woodlands ward councillor Sara Langdale.