Row over ‘unfair’ Fairtrade cafe bid

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PLANS for a Fairtrade cafe in Garstang have prompted criticism from councillors in a row which threatens to mar the community’s reputation as the world’s first Fairtrade town.

But the man behind the FIG (Fairtrade in Garstang) centre, Bruce Crowther, has fiercely defended the project after town councillors refused to give it their backing, just as local campaigners were preparing for the start of Fairtrade Fortnight.

Mr Crowther’s hopes for a letter of support from the town council fell on deaf ears at last week’s council meeting, with several councillors voicing concerns.

Coun Lady Dulcie Atkins said it was “very unfair” on established cafe owners for Mr Crowther to be opening another cafe in the town, while Coun Tom Balmain said other cafe owners would “stop selling Fairtrade coffee” if the FIG cafe goes ahead.

Mayor Coun Gillian Lamb, while supporting some aspects of the project, said she did not like the way Mr Crowther had gone about it.

She said: “He has upset quite a few cafe owners in town because they do support Fairtrade.”

When Coun Chris Ryan asked: “Can’t we just wish him good luck?”, Coun Lamb responded “no.”

Opposition to Mr Crowther’s plans for a cafe within the FIG centre from some of the town’s commercial cafes first surfaced two months ago when his idea for the centre, which he hopes to house in the old Discovery centre, High Street, were announced.

This week, following the town council’s snub, Mr Crowther issued a strong defence of his plans.

He told The Courier: “I am disappointed that some people cannot see the many benefits this will bring to Garstang - it will be another world first for Garstang.”

Commenting on the concerns about the cafe taking business from other cafes, Mr Crowther said: “The FIG centre is not primarily a cafe, but you obviously need a cafe in a visitor centre, show me a visitor centre where there is no cafe.”

He said the kind of products which will be available at the cafe would include Norwegian waffles and crepes, which he said were not sold at other cafes in Garstang.

He added: “We will make sure there will be no conflict. We are not treading on anybody’s toes.”

He said Garstang’s designation as the world first Fairtrade town had brought many extra visitors to the town, and he believed the FIG centre would act as an additional magnet.

Mr Crowther was reluctant to comment on his negotiations with Wyre Council over a lease on the Discovery Centre because talks were still in progress. He added though that he was still hoping for an opening date of on May 2.

The FIG centre will be run by Mr Crowther as ‘community interest company.’ The formation of the company has been approved by the regulatory authorities, and fundraising to find the £50,000 needed is still under way.

Wyre Council has confirmed that negotiations with Mr Crowther are “nearing completion.”

Following the town council meeting The Courier got mixed views on the row from cafe owners in the town.

, whose proprietors have both have signed up to use Fairtrade products.

Rachel Wilkinson of the Court Tea Room, Thomas’s Weind, says she uses Fairtrade products at her own business and added: “I have nothing against the movement and I applaud the work of Fairtraders in town, but a new cafe just takes the cream off what we are about, especially after we have already been hit by the opening of the cafe in Booths.”

Manager of the Number 19 cafe on High Street, Lisa Cross, also says she uses fairly traded products in her cafe. Asked about the prospect of a new cafe opening at the FIG Centre she said: “It should be very good for the town. I hope it does well. It can only be a good thing - it can’t be a negative.”

The FIG Centre will consist of a museum dedicated to the history of the Fairtrade movement, interactive workshops for school children and students and a cafe/shop selling Fairtrade goods.

* Fairtrade Fortnight (February 28 to March 13) has already been marked in the area with a display of Fairtrade cotton bunting on the Lancaster canal at Bilsborrow on board the canalboat The Margaret Kane. The bunting, part of an attempt to create the world’s longest length of bunting, will be at the canal basin/Th’owd Tithebarn, in Garstang on Saturday.

At noon on Saturday Fairtraders will launch the ‘Fairtrade Way’ - an 88 mile link route between Garstang and Keswick, taking in the Fairtrade towns of Lancaster, Arnside, Kendal, Windermere and Grasmere. The launch will see the placing of the first waymarker at the canal aqeduct.

Earlier on Saturday, at 10am, all Garstang women are invited to take part in a ‘bridge of peace’ promotion at the Wyre intake bridge (near the sports field).

* See next week’s Courier for report and photos of Garstang’s involvement in Fairtrade Fortnight.