Nearly 3,000 strong petition shows strength of feeling about mobile café closure in South Woodham Ferrers

A petition of almost 3,000 signatures has shown the strength of feeling people in South Woodham Ferrers have about losing a mobile café that served them through lockdown.

Phoebe’s Pantry has been based on the river at Marsh Farm Country Park for almost four years but it’s having to move after Essex County Council retendered for catering at its country parks.

Five Star Catering Ltd has been chosen to run mobile concessions at a number of Essex Country Parks following a council procurement process.

Due to the popularity of Essex Country Parks – which saw over one million people visit them from April to December in 2020 – Essex County Council says it understood the importance of having a mobile concessionary company that provided for visitors and which provided a financial return for the council.

Five Star Catering Ltd – which has previously served sites and venues across the county – has experience of working with a variety of organisations and events from the British Museum and Wembley Stadium to the Glastonbury Festival.

But it means Phoebe’s Pantry was unable to continue at Marsh Farm although it has been allowed to stay until the end of August.

A statement from Phoebes Pantry on social media said: “For us it is truly devastating, we have built our little business from scratch and over the last four years have become a part of the local community and feel very much loved by those who frequently visit us.

“It has to be said that we have been invited to apply for a new tender but the offer is not a commercially viable one for us as a small business.

“We have taken legal advice, spoken with the relevant departments and people and can assure you that there is absolutely nothing we can do about the decision.

“We have no other option other than to keep positive and hope that he next chapter in the Phoebe’s Pantry story is a successful one.”

Councillor Bob Massey (Cons, South Woodham Ferrers) submitting a petition to keep Phoebe’s Pantry in South Woodham Ferrers to Essex County Council yesterday, July 12, said: “Within three weeks of the announcement of Phoebe’s Pantry losing the right to cater at Marsh Farm 2,949 signatures were received on this petition.

“Phoebe’s Pantry scratched out of the corner of the car park at riverside at Marsh Farm about four years ago and they provided a vital service to residents through the pandemic and lockdown when people could walk down to the riverside and residents feel strongly they are losing this asset.”

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Piers Meyler

Local Democracy Reporter