THE temporary closure of a café in Highcliffe has been branded “hugely disappointing” for the town.

Reaction has poured in over the news Highcliffe Castle Tea Rooms will be closing its doors over the winter period.

BCP Council has announced the popular café would be shut from Friday, November 25, while a decision is made on its future.

Highcliffe and Walkford ward councillor Andy Martin said: “It’s a jewel in the crown of Highcliffe Castle, and for it not to be open is really poor.

“It’s hugely disappointing and I think we’ve let the residents and visitors down by not having this facility open over the winter.”

Read more: Highcliffe Castle Tea Rooms to close until further notice

BCP Council took over the running of Highcliffe Castle Tea Rooms in April this year.

Previously, US Company Aramark ran the venture, taking ownership of the café in 2017, in a controversial move which saw the 17-year-long owner, Sean Kearney, moved aside.

Sean said he still feels “bitter” that the café he spent years building up has been “destroyed”.

He said: “This just proves that councils cannot run businesses.

“Forty-two staff were made redundant when I went, and local businesses were destroyed by the council’s decision to bring in people from the outside who didn’t understand it.”

Whilst the impending closure was initially said to be ‘until further notice’, BCP Council have since announced that they were looking for a new operator to come in for Easter.

Sean said: “I feel like it’s the totally wrong thing for them to sit on it for months until they decide what to do. You can’t have a business closed for six months.

“When Aramark handed back the keys, why didn’t they start the process start away? Instead, they’ve taken a few quid in the summer, and stopped now it’s getting a bit tough.”

Cllr Martin agrees the council haven’t acted quickly enough to find new tenders for the tea rooms.

He said: “It’s unacceptable. You wouldn’t find that happening at this type of facility if it was in Bournemouth and Poole, it shouldn’t be happening in Highcliffe.

“It needs to be weeks, not months, because the longer it’s closed, the more damaging it’ll be to the business, and the more inconvenience it will cause to residents and visitors.”

Mudeford, Stanpit and West Highcliffe ward councillor Lesley Dedman was as equally saddened by the temporary closure.

She said: “I’m deeply disappointed. I think the residents will be bereft.

“I’m disappointed with BCP Council because it’s not as if the operators have just suddenly gone. Someone should’ve done something months ago; the whole thing has been handled badly.”