A CAMPAIGN to save Aunty Vi's café on Weymouth Beach has received a strong show of support from the community.

Last week the Echo revealed how Weymouth Town Council is proposing to take over the running of the café when the lease ends next March, instead of allowing people to bid for the contract.

News of the plan caused widespread anger within the community and an online petition calling for the council to reconsider gained almost 1,000 signatures in just over two days.

Supporters say the council should extend Mr Townsend's current contract for an extra year under new Government Covid-19 guidance. The petition also urges the council to improve its communications with tenants - Mr Townsend says he was only informed of the proposal two days before it was debated at a council meeting last week.

Mr Townsend said: "The whole process is poisonous, it is a potentially lethal blow to the town as it would set a precedent for the council to do the same thing to other businesses. It's not just me and my family in a state of mental anguish - this is causing so much upset among the entire community, as well as all my lovely customers who come here because we're like family.

Dorset Echo:

"The way they've gone about this means everything is stacked against me. I want to urge councillors to please follow the Government guidelines and extend my lease for another year. You already have a kiosk of your own - please just leave mine alone."

This Wednesday councillors will make a final decision on whether to take over the running of the café alongside the new Beach Office catering unit. It is understood this would cost the council around £47,500.

Dorset councillor Louie O'Leary was at the café when the Echo visited.

He said: "I think it is a very stupid move for town council to even consider this. We've seen what happened with the Pavilion - the council cannot match the success of private providers when it comes to running a commercial business."

The situation has been described as "troubling" by president of Weymouth and Portland Chamber of Commerce Craig Oakes.

He said: "I've spoken to representatives on both sides of the issue and would have to say that given the amount of support in Mr Townsend's favour, Weymouth Town Council needs to have a little patience and not make rash decisions that cannot be changed.

"Further consideration and time should be given, especially at this time. I would like to see better engagement from local authorities with the business community in general."

Dorset Echo:

Weymouth town councillor Luke Wakeling explained that councillors must make a decision before the café's lease ends in March 2021.

He said: "The choice is between putting this site out to tender again - which is predicted to bring a modest return for Weymouth's taxpayers - or running it as a council outlet in conjunction with our other kiosk at the Beach Office.

"The forecast councillors have seen indicates not putting it out to tender will bring a significantly better income for Weymouth's taxpayers which the town council can reinvest in providing better services without raising taxes."

The council's business case for running the cafe in-house has not been made public as it is deemed commercially sensitive.

The document was presented to councillors at a virtual meeting on September 30 and contains details of 'market opportunities, costs, financial forecasting, sustainability measures and practices, staffing arrangements and risk analysis.'