Would-be businesswoman ‘wasted thousands of pounds’ on Archway park venture

Charley Young by her food van, she spent a load of money to get a portable food business together on

Charley Young by her food van, she spent a load of money to get a portable food business together only to have the council pull it, at 62a St John's Grove, N19. Picture by Dieter Perry - Credit: Archant

A mother-of-two has been left jobless and deep in debt after her plans for a portable park café came to nought when a council-supported competitor reopened.

Charley Young, 27, was due to open a full time van-café in Whittington Park, Archway, with her father, Anthony Young, in November 2012.

But the plans for the mobile eatery, which she claimed had been given prior approval by Islington Council, were blocked when an objection was lodged just days before the opening, causing a further five-month delay.

Ms Young, who was pregnant at the time the planning battle began, said the family felt let down by the council after the amenity was ruled out altogether last month because the café run by Whittington Park Community Association, which is financially backed by the council, reopened after a period of closure.

She said: “If they had any kind of inkling that it was not going ahead, why did they let us spend money on a portable van?”

Ms Young and her father, who has become increasingly ill, spent £12,500 on the vehicle and say they are now £18,000 in debt due to assurances by the council that the business would go ahead.

They had even bought food for the menu and the insurance on the van is still being paid monthly.

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Ms Young said: “I just feel that for the whole year, they led us on. It contributed to my dad’s ill health. He has lost four stones. Our whole life savings was put into it.”

The original objection questioned the business’s involvement in the community, how they would dispose of waste and how the menu would complement rather than create competition for nearby cafés.

However, Ms Young said that the concerns put forward had been covered, and the father and daughter pair is also willing to change the menu to avoid competing with nearby businesses.

The council has offered Ms Young a pitch in nearby Elthorne Park but she is not convinced by the potential profit margins.

She has enquired about a number of other Islington parks, all of which already host cafés and do not want a competitor.

A spokesman for Islington Council said: “When the original approach for a concession in Whittington Park was made, there was no alternative facility operating from the Whittington Park Community Association [WPCA]. Since then, the cafe is once again operating.

“The WPCA is a key community facility that the council financially supports and as a result the decision was taken to ensure that this operation is given the best chance of success.

“We have therefore decided against introducing additional competition by way of a concession in the park itself.

“Should this situation change then we would be happy to review it.

“Meanwhile, we have offered other sites for Ms Young to consider.”