West Wittering Beach Cafe

    Redevelopment Newsletter

November 2017


Many of you will have attended our first public consultation which was held in early July. It focussed on gathering views and opinions on the location for the new café. Seven different options were shown to represent the breadth of requests and opinions within the community, and over 200 people came along and gave us their views on each possible location’s strengths and weaknesses.

Those attending were able to meet and talk to John and Lap from Morgan Carn, the architects who are helping with designs for the café. This feedback, along with our detailed analysis of the 174 questionnaires completed by those who came to the consultation together with operational and safety considerations raised by WWE staff and input from Chichester Harbour Conservancy and Natural England, has helped us make the first important decision – where the new café should be built.

So where is that? And why? Anna Hardy explains below.

Having seven location options might have appeared too many, though the range of options did stimulate much helpful discussion. On my part, I now have a greater understanding of how the beach activities and operations fit together and what is important.

At the same time, it does mean that opinions were spread across the alternatives. With no clear ‘winner’ we have decided on a final location taking account of what emerged as the positives of all of the most popular options. Ruth France discusses the findings from the questionnaires in more detail.

With the location chosen our architects, Morgan Carn, were able to get going on designs. An additional step, before they put pen to paper, was to review the detailed operational considerations. Our café manager, Lisa Bowyer was instrumental in helping with this. Lisa explains what the café needs from the operational point of view.

Morgan Carn responded to all our feedback and produced an initial design concept mid October. We have been working to establish the likely cost to ensure this is affordable and have now asked Morgan Carn to prepare for the next public consultation.

Our key objective remains the protection of our natural and beautiful environment. I believe the proposed location, design and landscaping will blend in with the landscape and so achieve this aim. I look forward to meeting you all again at the next public consultation, where Morgan Carn will be on hand to discuss their proposal and all their work in arriving at this solution, as well as answer your questions. It will be held 1st and 2nd December 2017 at the Car Park Beach Café. Full details below

Julian Hall
Chairman of the West Wittering Estate Café Committee

Here Anna Hardy explains where we plan to build the new café, and why.

Considering all the factors Julian has described, our proposal is to put the new Café south and east of the current site.

It will be a little closer to the beach, though not so close as to suffer from the full force of Mother Nature. This move both links it conceptually to the beach while also making access easier and safer for summer visitors with the road re-located to run behind the new cafe.

The chosen location also allows the architects to deliver a design with greater operational effectiveness in line with our staff’s recommendations with, for example, appropriate space for safe and efficient management of queues. It also uses a grass area which is currently problematic for parking. Combined with freeing up the existing Café area for parking, this means a more efficient use of land overall.

A view from the new café, preferably of the sea, was an important benefit for many. The design team has been looking at how we may make the best use of all views, both of the Downs and Harbour to the north, and the sea and beach to the south. Detailed analysis of the topography of the area, plus a 360° photographic impact survey were carried out in order to understand fully the options, as well as likely impact on views of the beach itself. Our architects even ventured onto the roof of the existing Café to make sure they had experienced every possibility!

Based on this we have concluded that, to create a view of the beach and sea to the south, the building height would need to be substantial. Therefore, Morgan Carn have focused their design efforts on a viewing orientation towards the north and west, thinking particularly about those “off-peak” months when geese are in residence, views are clear, and there are fewer cars in the car park.

We would ask those particularly interested in this aspect of the design wait to see how our architects’ ideas on this before making a judgement. Detailed models and visuals are being produced for our next public consultation.

The new café will be equidistant between two existing breaks in the Tamarisk hedge, so easing pedestrian traffic flow – especially near the toilets – on busy summer days. The design will also include elements to shield serving windows from blown sand.

The space created between the hedge and the new Café will give a unique, almost enclosed environment for our architects to work with in meeting the design objectives. Again, ideas will be on display for your feedback at the next consultation.

Finally, we understand why some liked the idea of combining the new café with the redevelopment of the central toilet block. However, conversations with staff have convinced us that this approach would exacerbate current operational issues. The beach access point by the toilet block is the main route for our life guards and is already busy, particularly in the summer so pulling more people to this area would not be a great idea. In addition, we felt the scale of building required would not allow us to uphold our key aim – the protection of our natural environment.

     Counting your Opinions

Here Ruth France describes the findings from our first public consultation – what you liked about some possible locations and which others were complete ‘non-starters’.

Our first public consultation was held in July and over 200 people came along to give us their views.

The aim of this first stage was to decide on a location for the new café. Seven options were presented in the exhibition, the five marked on this map, plus a further two, one at East Head and one at windsurfing club.

There was very little support for three options, those at East Head, by the windsurf club and on the beach front (number 3 on the map). These are now definitely ‘off the table’.

About one in five preferred to keep the café in its existing location, while almost as many were most in favour of one of the options which involved fully re-developing the existing toilet block (number 5 on the map).

Those in favour of keeping the café where it is typically explained:

“It has worked for a number of years. Why change it?”

“Brown site with existing amenities. Away from beach. Central.”

We were surprised how much support was expressed for the idea of combining the new café with a full re-development of the existing central toilet block. Feedback suggested this particularly appealed as it would give a view across the sea, with some finding the proposal quite inspiring. Here are some typical comments:

“Imaginative. Good location to blend in with beach.”

“Great possibility for design. Least impact. Central.”

“Excellent eco solution of benefit to locals and visitors.”

At the same time, people were realistic that this approach had practical issues particularly with blown sand. Many also noted that a large scheme per se could be a negative for the environment generally. This made a compelling argument which persuaded us away from this plan, though we have noted people’s views that the toilet blocks are in need of improvement. In designing the new café, we have asked the architects to bear in mind a possible second phase to deal with this.

The other option which received significant support was that where the café is sited slightly closer to the beach, with the road re-routed behind (number 2 on the map). A clear finding was that more supported the idea of re-routing the road than felt this was unnecessary from a safety point of view. One resident told us they had “…. witnessed several near misses of children crossing the road to access café” which is in line with what staff report, so this is something the Estate must address.

Overall, when all the feedback was analysed it was clear that we needed to take the good points from several options and come up with a new solution. The key challenge we set the architects was how we respond to those who have expressed enthusiasm for a design which provides sea views while staying true to our ambition – and the desire of all sections of our visitors – that the new café should have minimal impact on the unspoilt, natural environment of the Estate.

More information on this feedback, including detailed analysis of the supporting statistics, will be on display at our next public consultation.

     Behind the Scenes

Here Lisa Bowyer, who has worked in the Café for a decade and managed it for the last three years, gives us an insight into her ‘day-to-day’ and explains some of the challenges she hopes the new design will address.

It's an early start for me at the Café. These days I don't need an alarm as my one-year-old daughter takes care of the wake-up call. I usually arrive at 7am and on a typical summer day, the up to 20 staff will arrive not long after me. We start with a team meeting: an opportunity to chat about the day ahead and plan.

Any job dealing with the public is demanding so it's important my staff can take time to catch their breath and grab a quick bite. One issue we have with the current café is lack of any facilities for staff breaks. A proper staff room is high on my wish list for the new building. An office where I can deal with my duties efficiently would be lovely too.

In the summer, we sell thousands of ice creams a day. Our machines are good quality but require a complicated cleaning process every other day due in large part to being exposed to the sand. It’s a tricky job that takes time and if you get it wrong the machines have a habit of covering you head to toe in dairy mix. I have asked the architects to make sure the new building includes ice cream windows which are more sheltered from the elements.

I’m constantly surprised how many of our summer visitors come without ‘the basics’ for a day at the beach. Those who have forgotten their bucket and spade, towel, wind break, even their flip flops find their way to our Beach Goods shop. The staff work hard to serve people quickly, but delays are inevitable as our store room is a good walk from the shop itself. I hope we can improve on this in the new building. It will really help us ‘bust the queues’ on busy summer days.

On top of serving the crowds, the Cafe seems to be first port of call for any number of emergencies, including missing children, first aid requirements, dogs locked in cars and bin fires all find their way to our door. For this reason, I do feel the café should remain central to the estate. At the same time, and as a mum myself, I am pleased that we are considering re-routing the road. A lay out where we won’t see the ice cream queue in the path of lorries making deliveries or cars looking for a parking space is key. I see so many ‘near misses’ it’s only a matter of time before a child is injured.

The Cafe is a hard place to work in the summer. On busy days some visitors get frustrated as we simply can’t serve them as efficiently as we’d like. That can put a damper on a nice family day out. We have a great team who really pull together and take great pride in running the Café. A new, well-designed building will mean a better experience for everyone.

     Date for your Diary

Please join us at the next public consultation on the development of the new West Wittering Estate beach café. This will be held at the existing café on Friday and Saturday, December 1 and 2 2017.

Friday 1st December, 1pm - 4pm

Saturday 2nd December, 9am - 1pm

For those who wish to come by car, there will be no charge for entering the car park.  The barrier will be open.

    Revealed - New Beach Cafe Location






Based on all completed questionnaires (174)