THE fate of popular Aunty Vi's Café on Weymouth Beach will be decided tonight amid a huge public outcry over a council 'take over' plan.

At the end of this article we are asking readers to vote on what they think should happen.

As reported, the café's lease will end in March 2021 and landlord Weymouth Town Council is proposing to run the cafe instead of allowing people to bid for the contract.

There was also an option to extend the current lease for a year under emergency Covid measures introduced by the Government.

Current lease holder Peter Townsend has been running Aunty Vi's for 14 years and has previously spoken of his and his family's devastation over the plan, with local business chiefs and councillors rallying in support.

It is claimed that he only found out about the proposal from a customer, two days before a meeting took place at the start of this month.

Meanwhile an online petition launched by Peter's daughter Poppy Townsend has reached over 1,500 signatures in under a week.

Weymouth Town Council has said the proposals will offer 'best value for money' for local taxpayers.

Initially it was understood the plans would cost the council £47,500 - but latest committee documents indicate it will cost £57,785.

Poppy Townsend issued the below statement ahead of tonight's virtual Full Council meeting, which will be live streamed via Weymouth Town Council's Facebook page.

She wrote: "Some people think this story is a waste of time because my dad’s lease is due to expire soon. But it’s not about that. It’s about how a council – supposedly in place to support the local community – has shown no empathy, compassion or professionalism to a local business during a global pandemic.

"The government released guidelines earlier this year, related to the pandemic, that stated leases due to expire soon could be extended by one year. This option was very readily dismissed by the council – why? Why were discussions about this not had with us?

"The lack of communication has been shocking. We found out about the takeover plans from a customer rather than officially from the council. This shows the level of unprofessionalism we have encountered.

"In addition to not consulting with the lease holder, the council have not consulted with the local community. Should the community not have a say about how their money is spent?

"To gauge community feelings, I started a petition listing all of the reasons we do not believe the takeover to be viable. From the petition, it seems that nearly 1,500 people agree with us. I urge the council to take this into consideration when voting tonight.

"I also urge other local businesses to think carefully about how you would feel in this situation. It doesn’t seem unreasonable to assume that other local businesses could also be at risk of takeover when their leases expire. Will this now set a precedent?

"Finally, I would like to send our immense gratitude and thanks to everyone who has supported us so far. The lovely messages we’ve received has helped my dad a huge amount."