Man’s bid to renew Kiln Café project in Bury St Edmunds is rejected

Simon Johnson outside the Kiln Cafe off Risbygate Street
Simon Johnson outside the Kiln Cafe off Risbygate Street
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A man’s dreams of relaunching a social enterprise café in Bury St Edmunds have been thwarted after four months of planning.

Simon Johnson, former manager at the Kiln Café, in Risbygate Street, produced two business cases to reopen the initiative to offer training and work opportunities for people with learning disabilities.

However, despite months of negotiations he has now been told that Genesis, the housing provider and charity which owns the building, wants to use it for office space.

He has hit out at the move and has written to Genesis’s managing director to complain at the way he feels he has been treated.

He said: “I’m very, very angry at this length of time. They could have said earlier that this was not going to happen but it’s as if they put barriers in my way. I was working towards creating a social enterprise and a lot of people have been disappointed.

“Genesis have now said they want the building for offices and they could have told me this four months ago.

“I have used time and energy and updated the plan and they have given me the run around.”

Mr Johnson had run the Kiln Café with 10 volunteers obtaining and enjoying life skills through the project until it was closed earlier this year after funding was discontinued.

The café opened in 2007 and offered opportunities through Suffolk Mental Health service, Leading Lives, Eve Care and also provided work experience to youngsters from Priory School and Riverwalk School.

Mr Johnson said he had been working with West Suffolk College to organise training for the volunteers who would have benefited from the re-opened scheme.

He is hoping that he can take his plan forward if suitable premises can now be found.

A spokesman for Genesis said: “We appreciate that Mr Johnson has had to spend time to put forward a proposal for keeping the Kiln Café running, and fully acknowledge the positive impact that the café has had on staff and volunteers and as a facility for the local community.

“Unfortunately, having considered the proposal in detail, we had to conclude that it was not a viable option, given that it was predicated on the use of facilities within our office building other than the café itself.

“Genesis provided substantial amounts of funding to subsidise the café over the years, but despite these efforts it continued to operate at a significant loss. With funding for the vital care and support services that we deliver in East Anglia and beyond under very significant pressure, we could not allow this to continue.

“We are prepared to support Mr Johnson in developing his business proposal should he find suitable alternative