PLANS to bring a new caterer to Highcliffe Castle have not progressed ‘as quickly as hoped’, say BCP Council.

Delays in receiving some “important information” required for the tea rooms procurement process meant the "timeframe slipped significantly”.

The tea rooms at Highcliffe Castle have been closed since November 2022, although a temporary caterer operated outside the castle through much of last years.

However, that caterer’s contract has now ended, leaving an empty space outside the historic building.

BCP Council has now announced plans to bring a new mobile occupant by February half term, ahead of a permanent occupant taking over the castle tea rooms between May and July 2024.

The local authority said it was “prioritising the work needed to get this in place” and is “keen to complete it as soon as possible”.

Councillor Mike Cox, portfolio holder for finance, said: “We know how much residents value the presence of a tearoom at Highcliffe Castle, and like them we wish to see one back in place as soon as possible.

“As a local government organisation spending public money, we are held to a high standard in terms of procuring any supplier and we are committed to ensuring we run a fair, open and robust tender process.

Bournemouth Echo: An update posted by BCP Council at Highcliffe CastleAn update posted by BCP Council at Highcliffe Castle (Image: NQ)

“Regrettably, the process for securing a permanent provider for the tearoom has not been as quick as we all would have liked.

"Delays in receiving some important information required for this procurement process to start meant the timeframe slipped significantly.

“As this is a live tender, we cannot go into detail but in order to maintain the integrity of the process we also made the decision to temporarily stop the tender process but it has now restarted and remains in progress.”

Cllr Cox said he hoped to have the permanent occupant in, and the tea rooms open, by the summer.

He added: “We are looking to appoint another short-term operator until the permanent tearoom is in place.

"I would welcome any businesses with an interest to contact us for details at:

“I and the team at the Castle would like to thank all the visitors and supporters for their patience during this time. We look forward to a busy and enjoyable 2024 season.”