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Durham café closure could be 'weeks away' after temporary bus stop woes

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A once-popular Durham café has revealed that it could be just weeks away from closure after the redevelopment of the city’s bus station has caused disruption, which has pushed it towards “financial ruin”.

Demolition of the former bus station began in February 2021, but it is now believed that the project has fallen behind schedule.

During the refurbishment of the transport facility, temporary bus stops have been installed along the tight pavements lining North Road for passengers to wait for services.

Read more: Stockton restaurateur develops gluten-free and vegan pasta

Despite seeing an impact on passengers, independent traders based on the street have also been highly critical of the temporary measures as they have resulted in large crowds of people waiting for buses, creating barriers, and blocking footfall from accessing their respective businesses.

The problem has become so bad for one business, Bean Social Café, that it could be just weeks away from closure.

Owner of Bean Social Café, James Gardener, said: “We were a popular and thriving local business before this work started but trade has simply collapsed since temporary bus stops were installed on the street.

The Northern Echo: Bean Social Café on North Road in Durham. Picture: BEAN SOCIAL CAFEBean Social Café on North Road in Durham. Picture: BEAN SOCIAL CAFE

“The café was a real community hub, a safe space for people from all walks of life- to lose this now would be such a hammer blow.

“The trading environment has been turned on its head.

“We used to be a welcoming venue at the gateway to the city, but now the street is lined with buses, engines running and pumping fumes into the café.

“When the bus stops are busy it’s frequently impossible to fight through the crowds to the front door.”

The Northern Echo: Roadworks on North Road that is impacting businesses. Picture: BEAN SOCIAL CAFERoadworks on North Road that is impacting businesses. Picture: BEAN SOCIAL CAFE

Mr Gardener had previously raised the impact the arrangement was having on his business with the local authority but was told the council accepted no liability for the financial impact.

He has now stepped up his campaign, though, after seeking assistance from City of Durham Mary Kelly Foy, who has written to Durham County Council on behalf of the businesses on North Road that the local authority properly engage with vendors to find solutions.

In the letter, Ms Foy calls the decision of Durham County Council to award Bean Social £20,000 in grant funding through the North Road Regeneration Fund to establish a vibrant local business, only to threaten its viability five years later as “perverse”.

The Northern Echo: Fencing has been put up to support the transport hub redevelopment. Picture: BEAN SOCIAL CAFEFencing has been put up to support the transport hub redevelopment. Picture: BEAN SOCIAL CAFE

Reacting to the situation on Durham’s North Road Ms Foy said “I am worried the Council are trying to wash their hands of the damage their actions are having on local independent businesses.

“We were originally told the bus station would be completed by autumn 2022, but this was pushed back until early 2023.

“This new date now seems incredibly unlikely too, as barely a brick has been laid. Every week these temporary arrangements remain on the street, is another week of damage done to these businesses.

“These businesses worked hard to survive the pandemic, yet they now appear under greater threat of closure from the very organisation who should be supporting them- the very local authority they pay their business rates to.”

Alongside the letter from Ms Foy, a crowdfunder has been set up by Bean Social Café to save the venue from having to close, which includes people having the chance to get different benefits from the café in exchange for cash.

It can be found here.

Durham County Council has not yet commented on the questions surrounding the refurbishment of the transport facility.

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