Lack of loos blocking Minto cafe

Rob Armstrong with his partner Rachael who are looking to start up a coffee shop on the premises of their house in Minto but are having planning trouble with the council as they want them to supply more toilet facilities.

Rob Armstrong with his partner Rachael who are looking to start up a coffee shop on the premises of their house in Minto but are having planning trouble with the council as they want them to supply more toilet facilities.

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The future of a new cafe and live music venue at Minto is in doubt after the project hit difficulties over a lack of toilet provision.

Rob Armstrong, who set up the Denholm Meet venue several years ago, and his partner Rachel Williamson, have spent a considerable sum of money converting the village’s disused Victorian school into a licensed coffee shop, music venue, community space and antiques business.

Rob Armstrong with his partner Rachael who are looking to start up a coffee shop on the premises of their house in Minto but are having planning trouble with the council as they want them to supply more toilet facilities.

Rob Armstrong with his partner Rachael who are looking to start up a coffee shop on the premises of their house in Minto but are having planning trouble with the council as they want them to supply more toilet facilities.

Christened The Study, the building now has an open plan layout and is filled with architectural features and artefacts.

But a lack of toilet facilities has seen building control officials at Scottish Borders Council refuse to allow the new venture to open for business.

“We have provided a large toilet with disabled access, but have now been told this is not enough. So I drew comparisons with other coffee shops that opened recently with only one toilet, but Scottish Borders Council has failed to give us a decent explanation for how these other businesses were granted permission,” said Mr Armstrong.

“We have spent our budget on the project and The Study looks fantastic. But because of the building layout there is no more room to form extra toilets without building on a dedicated block outside which is costly and would be difficult to gain permission for, given the sensitive nature of the conservation village.

“Building control has also listed several other demands which are just not possible without dramatically messing with the integrity of this beautiful building.”

Mr Armstrong says the problems are now threatening to torpedo the project and the four full-time jobs that would have been created.

However, an SBC spokesperson said when Mr Armstrong and his agent first applied for a building warrant to alter and convert the property in March, officials highlighted the lack of sufficient toilets for the occupant capacity proposed.

“The other businesses that Mr Armstrong highlighted were not similar premises, not similar applications and not of the same occupant load,” said the spokesperson.

“We look forward to continued dialogue with Mr Armstrong and his agent to allow a building warrant, with a suitable degree of toilet accommodation, to be granted.”

Local Scottish Borders councillors Stuart Marshall and Watson McAteer are both keen to see the problems resolved.

“I think it’s a real shame that such a fantastic project is being jeopardized by one or two technical issues, and I would sincerely urge SBC to do all it can to help the owner overcome the difficulties that are being presented to him,” said Mr Marshall.

“This conversion project not only will create employment, it also seems just too good an opportunity to be allowed to fail.”

And Mr McAteer voiced his concern: “I have been aware of The Study project for some time and the great opportunities that this venture brings to a small rural community.

“Having encouraged council officials to meet with Mr Armstrong to work out how to resolve what appears to be a technical problem, I am extremely disappointed that a solution has not yet been found and this project and facility is now at risk.”