THE OWNER of a park cafe insists controversial plans to turn it into a Costa franchise is the only way to make the business work due to high rent costs and building issues.

Carly Trisk-Grove, who took on a 10-year lease on the Wycombe District Council-built building in Marlow's Higginson Park in 2008, claims the cost of rent and issues with the building mean only a large chain can make the cafe profitable.

Coffee Snobs, a Costa franchise, submitted a planning application in December, but has not yet committed to take on the remainder of the lease.

The cafe, which was built as a shelter with gaps in the roof and windows, is set to be modified to make it a sealed, heated building under the plans.

The proposal sparked controversy last month when residents complained the picturesque views of the park would be ruined by the advertising and large air conditioning units facing Pound Lane.

Ms Grove said she underestimated how hard running the independent business from the shelter would be, and that only a company with financial muscle could turn a decent profit.

She said: “When I signed the lease, I didn’t realise the mistake I was making in taking on. Realistically, the building is not fit for purpose, and the only people who can make it a success is a big company like Costa who have greater buying power and economies of scale.

“Something has to happen. It is all very well people objecting but over the last three years, we have worked really hard and not made the level of profit that has been worth the massive effort.

“I don’t think any other independent company would be able run it either. The building is basically a shelter and we’re spending money constantly pumping heat into it just to keep warm.

“We were naive, and did not appreciate that the building couldn’t really be properly heated in winter.”

The plans, which are due to be decided by WDC this month, include building work to fill in the gaps around the top of the shelter, replacement of doors and windows and air conditioning.

WDC says advertising relating to the operator is permitted, but that any changes would have to be approved through the planning process.

It also confirmed any alterations would be paid for the leaseholder and not the taxpayer.