Woodbridge restaurant owner angered over council 'backtrack' of proposed scheme
- Credit: Archant
The owner of a popular Woodbridge restaurant has hit out at the town council over a proposed scheme for a small area of land at the back of his business.
Ugur Vata, who runs The Galley on Market Hill, said he feels "betrayed and angry" with Woodbridge Town Council over issues relating to his business, including the land - which he believed could provide the town with newly improved amenities and make his restaurant more secure.
Mr Vata has accused the council of backtracking after the idea won approval from councillors 12 months ago.
Three years ago, Mr Vata came up with a plan to buy the patch of land, at a cost of £70,000, and spend another £30,000 on building work to turn the block into a production kitchen linked to the restaurant.
The plans also included the conversion of public toilets to become part of the restaurant premises - with new public toilets built for the town.
But Woodbridge Town Council has said there is no contract or agreement in place for sale of the land.
Mr Vata said: “After all this time we are still waiting and I don’t understand why. I can’t get any answers.
"As a business owner, I’m the one taking the risk, but these people just don’t understand reality. They need to start listening.
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"We are providing jobs and training for young people and generating trade for the town. Surely we deserve better than this?”
Mr Vata estimates that he's already spent around £10,000 preparing the scheme and could take legal action in an attempt to get that money back if the idea now has little chance of going ahead.
The well-known business owner, who has been trading in the town for nearly 20 years, said he also bought and set out tables and chairs so that customers could sit outside with their food and drink on part of the square between the restaurant and Shire Hall.
But he's been told by the town council that to do the same this year, he will need to pay a charge of £15 per day.
“I couldn’t believe it,” Mr Vata said. “Yet again, another cost which we would have to bear. We have incredibly supportive customers and we are trying to do everything we can to improve what we do and come up with new ideas, but why is the town council not doing more to get behind us too? Where’s the backing?
“These councillors are elected by the people of the town to serve the town, but they just don’t get it. It gives me sleepless nights, it really does.
"They should be coming to traders like me and saying, ’How can we help you?’, but instead it seems that every step we take, we are being knocked back. I feel betrayed and angry."
Sue Bale, mayor of Woodbridge, said: "There is no contract or agreement in place for the sale by Woodbridge Town Council to Mr Vata of the land currently occupied by the public toilets in Theatre Street.
"The council has been very clear with Mr Vata on this point on numerous occasions. On Friday, March 11, the town clerk and I met with Mr Vata for an hour during which time the clerk reiterated that the site is not currently on the market.
"In response to Mr Vata's comments about chairs and tables on the market square, I can say that during the worst months of the Covid pandemic, the town council waived fees for cafes/restaurants wanting to serve their customers at tables in the market square.
"For 2022, the fees will increase from £12.50 (pre-Covid) to £15 a day per establishment."
Mrs Bale added that no decisions have yet been made about the future of the site.