A NEW beach café at Silecroft is a step nearer after the project was granted planning permission this week.

The café, which will replace the current temporary structure, has been given the go ahead by planners at the Lake District National Park Authority.

It is part of the Connecting Cumbria’s Hidden Coast project – a series of attractions and improvements to the footpaths linking Copeland’s coast. It’s hoped the new café could be up and running some time in 2021, depending on the repercussions of the Covid-19 pandemic.

The vision for a café came from local residents, who included it in their Community Plan back in 2011. Much hard work by Whicham Parish Council and Whicham Community Interest Company, supported by Copeland Council staff, led to the temporary cafe in 2017. It has proved popular with walkers, locals and holiday makers.

Robert Morris-Eyton, Chair of the Community Interest Company, said: “We are delighted that our vision of a permanent cafe at Silecroft beach has moved a step closer, with an excellent design that will look fantastic overlooking the beach.

“It will provide not only refreshments and ice cream, but also facilities including a full disabled changing room, allowing a wider range of visitors to come and enjoy the splendid views, sand and sea.”

Architects Konishi Gaffney created initial designs, which were then developed with input from the community. Now planning permission has been granted, and a tender process to find a suitable builder will soon begin.

The café will overlook the expansive pale sands of Silecroft, and make the most of panoramic views to the sea and to Black Combe. It will have two courtyards, offering shelter regardless of the wind direction.

Copeland’s Elected Mayor, Mike Starkie, said: “The community groups have been driving this project since day one, and without their vision and hands-on support, it would not be where it is now.

“It’s great to hear the project has passed another milestone. Along with many residents I can’t wait to see the café in action in this incredibly picturesque location. And when tourism opens up again, it will form part of the fantastic offer from our ‘hidden gem’ of a coastline. It’s the perfect example of something which would attract both locals and tourists looking to get away to a tranquil spot, or walk the coastal path.”

The Connecting Cumbria’s Hidden Coast programme is funded by more than £1m from the Government’s Coastal Communities Fund and £600,000 from Sellafield Ltd. In addition to the café, it includes wider improvements including a Coastal Challenge Event to be held in early 2021, several new cycle and footpath routes and the commissioning of a coastal art trail.