A BELLINGHAM cafe owner says she is being forced out of her current premises after seven years of trading.

The Fountain Cottage Cafe and Tea Room building, owned by Northumberland County Council, has been sold to a new investor who plans to take over the premises.

Owner Joanne Taheem said she had an offer to buy the building along with Kevin Gray, a Hexham-based consultant, accepted on April 5 last year.

“Kevin’s interest was refreshing because it was somebody coming in to support the building for a business and community perspective,” Joanne said.

But she claimed that on the day they were due to pick up the keys, council officials had lost the paperwork.

Kevin added: “The council were deliberately obstructive in securing the deal. After losing nearly £7,000 I was left with no other alternative but to walk away.”

At the end of September, Joanne received a letter stating the premises had been sold to a new investor and that she had three months left until the termination of her licence at the end of the year.

The cafe currently employs eight people on a part time basis and is a popular location for tourists, locals, cyclists and motorcyclists.

“I have taken huge pride in the fact we have given young people in the village a chance,” Joanne said.

“I am just disappointed that somebody will come in and take on the legacy of my business without my involvement.”

Built in 1839 as a former workhouse, Joanne claimed the council had allowed the condition of the building to fall into disrepair.

Kevin added: “Moves like this are damaging to the village and it seems the council has favoured cash value over community value.

Joanne is now looking for alternative units to carry on her business.

“Everything’s now beyond my control and I’ve not received received any consideration or support from the council. I feel stitched up.”

A spokeswoman for Northumberland County Council said: “When the building was sold we were advised that the purchaser’s intention was for it to continue to be used as a cafe.

“We would be very disappointed if this was no longer the case, and sincerely hope that the tenant is given the opportunity to remain.”