Serving up a new cafe for Seaham

Seaham Car Park, opposite Seaham Hall undergoing a revamp.

Seaham Car Park, opposite Seaham Hall undergoing a revamp.

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WORK has begun on a £200,000 project to transform a grotty toilet block into a cliff-top cafe.

The scheme at Seaham Hall Car Park will see the existing building used as the shell of the new venue, with an extension built to create a welcoming gateway to the town and East Durham’s Heritage Coast.

The development will be ready to serve visitors by Easter, with the toilets to only be accessed through the cafe.

The move will help combat the antisocial use of the toilets in past years.

Niall Benson, heritage coast officer, said: “We are very lucky to have a coastline which is so stunning and unique.

“However, it is important that we are able to provide accessible and up-to-date facilities if we are to make the most of its potential as a visitor attraction.

“The walls in between the two boxes within the building will be taken down to open up the space and join them together and a circle section will be built on the sea-side area to create the cafe, with the toilets within.”

He added that councillors for the area had already given the proposals their backing and were delighted the work is to be carried out.

Solar panels have already been fitted to the roof of the building and will continue to be used once the improvements are complete, helping Durham County Council cover the costs of running the facilities.

The cafe will be run by tenant Tonia Schofield, who already runs the ice cream kiosk with her family and staff.

The car park, off the B1287 which links Seaham with Ryhope, will remain open while the work, which has been in the pipeline for more than a year, is ongoing, but the kiosk and toilets will be closed.

The funds for the programme are from the council’s Invest to Save fund, with the changes expected to give tourism a further boost.

Figures show in the last year, 100,000 people visited Nose’s Point at Dawdon, compared to 30,000 the year before.

Although statistics for Seaham Hall Car Park are not available, bosses say it has seen an increase on a similar scale.

Twitter: @EchoEastDurham