The owner of an organic cafe which has been forced to close down has dubbed Milton Keynes Council ‘uncaring’.
Squeaks Organic Eatery based in Highley Grove, Broughton, shut earlier this week following a visit from council planning officers.
The popular, non-profit making venue,, which is heavily involved in the community on the estate and served as a hub for protests against a council decision to close the Broughton Gate Skate Park had failed to comply with conditions regarding car parking spaces and access to the building.
Owner Katrina Creaser, who started Squeaks in 2011 with her husband John, contacted the Citizen on social networking site Twitter to say the changes amount to parking ‘our cars in a different direction, and changing four letters on a drawing,’ but would cost several thousand pounds to implement.
But a council spokesman said the cafe had only ever been granted permission to run as an internet cafe, adding that officers had done everything they could to help keep it open.
In her Tweet to the Citizen, Mrs Creaser said: ‘We can’t afford to comply with conditions of our planning, although we are not harming anyone.
‘Planning requires that we park our cars in a different direction, and change four letters on a drawing - costing us a few grand’.
She later told this newspaper: “I have closed. I’ve thrown in the towel.
“It was a condition put on my planning and I appreciaate they can’t change the rules, even though I’m a community service and non-profit making.
“We have had no problems with the parking and the council confirmed it has had no complaints about it.
“The other reason is that we are operating as a cafe and not an internet cafe as we only have one computer. But a lot of people bring thier own devices and connect to our super fast broadband.”
She added that a ‘simple copy and paste’ error meant the layout of the cafe doesn’t exactly match that agreed with the council when planning permission was agreed.
“It is a shame, because it is all paperwork but in reality people like this place and it is buzzing.
“Everything we try to do to help the community gets scuppered by this council.
“My husband and I have even thought about getting out of MK because we don’t seem to fit here.
“I asked the council to give me a break. I’m not a big corporation, the business is non-profit making and I wasn’t even getting paid.
“I was doing it out of love. If I can’t do something out of love, it is wrong.
“I want people at the council to realise they are losing their humanity.
“I have had several letters and every letter I have sent back has been in a pleading way. I need more time to get computers and money for planning changes, but they just follow the rules.
“There was no bend at all and it ended with ‘if you do apply for planning permission, you might not get it’.
“It was all very uncaring.”
And one customer Steven Dryden-Hall told the Citizen: “It’s such a shame that a brilliant cafe has been closed down.
“The food was fresh and quirky, the people were really friendly and it was a great place for meetings.”
Milton Keynes Council released a statement saying: ‘The Squeaks Organic Eatery was given planning permission in December 2011, to operate as an internet café – not a standard café.
‘An original application was submitted for a standard café and this was withdrawn following concerns raised by council officers over the impact of a café use on the area. Therefore use of the premises as a standard café has been considered by planning officers before.
‘However, when we carried out a compliance visit in June we found only one laptop computer immediately available on site, with meals being served throughout the area designated for the internet café, plus an area specifically designated for a shop. Consequently, the property was trading as a normal café which is not the approved primary use.
‘Sadly, despite repeated requests, the owners are still failing to meet their original planning conditions, including a condition to provide three clearly designated customer parking spaces next to the premises and further to provide access by way of a dropped kerb. These conditions were on the advice of our highways officers, in order to minimise danger, obstruction and inconvenience to users of the highway and of the access.
‘We have tried very hard to work with the Squeaks Organic Eatery. We originally sent a letter outlining their options and to request a written proposal outlining the option they have chosen within 28 days. This did not happen.
‘We then gave another 14 days plus an additional seven days; still they failed to act. We advised them that they are free to meet the conditions as approved or apply to vary them or apply for a full café use. As yet, the owners have not undertaken formal steps to either comply or to remedy the situation with an appropriate application.
‘We are not trying to close a community facility down and we always work with local businesses where we can, but we need their co-operation to do this.’
Squeaks will continue to run workshops from the cafe building.