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The Box Café in Cambridge wins two-year reprieve from demolition plans after outcry

A café owner has thanked his loyal customers for their support after winning a two-year reprieve from Cambridge City Council plans to demolish his premises.

Ozy Ozcan, who runs The Box Café on Norfolk Street, was stunned by news that the city council was planning to knock down the building that contains his café and the neighbouring hair salon Uppercuts as part of a redevelopment scheme.

Ozy and Fatma Ozcan outside The Box Cafe. Picture: Keith Heppell
Ozy and Fatma Ozcan outside The Box Cafe. Picture: Keith Heppell

He was informed that he would need to leave by August next year so that the council, partnering with developer Hill, could begin work.

But the outcry from customers and neighbours of the café seems to have caused council officers to pause the plans. And Ozy has thanked the Cambridge Independent for bringing the news to the attention of the public.

Ozy said: “They wrote us an email saying they were going to pause the development. I have been told they won’t now carry out the work until September 2025, which means they have extended it by two more years before the work will start. It’s much better than just a few months’ notice, which is what we were being given at first. That will buy us time to talk through what will happen next. Hopefully we can find out more detail about what the council’s plans are.

“I have been humbled by the amount of support we received. I want to thank the Cambridge Independent. Once the word got out, I think there was a big response to the council’s consultation on the plans. I also think people contacted their local councillors and the MP directly and they said they weren’t happy about this.

“We still don’t know the details of what the plans will mean for us. It seems first refusal on the new premises will be ours but we don’t know if we can afford the new rent or where we could go in the meantime.”

The city council announced in October that it hoped to knock down the existing building at 47-51 Norfolk Street and create four new commercial units, including a café and improved local centre, and seven new homes.

There were also proposals for a separate development at East Road where there are proposals to build 40 homes at a site in Cambridge where high winds caused structural damage to a block of garages. Plans to demolish the Box Café were met with universal shock and sadness.

A council spokesperson said: “Cambridge City Council can confirm that, following a recent consultation event, it will be pausing provisional proposals for starting redevelopment of its site at 47-51 Norfolk Street until September 2025 at the earliest rather than August 2023 as originally proposed. This is in response to feedback we received at the consultation event and the challenging environment businesses face in the next few years.

“The Norfolk Street site is currently let to Allia, a charity that supports small businesses and charities to develop, grow and achieve their aims, who in turn sublet to such businesses and charities. The additional time will provide reassurance to the local businesses and enable the council to work closely with the tenant and its subtenants on site to review the proposals and mitigate the impacts for the businesses, which will be discussed further and decided on.”

The proposals can be seen at https://eastroadandnorfolkstreet.co.uk/.

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