Housing association chiefs have announced plans for a partnership with a major coffee chain to run a community café on a Lynn estate.
Freebridge Community Housing officials hope the link-up with Costa Coffee, which will begin on June 29, will secure the future of the Olive Branch facility in Hillington Square.
But a local church leader has voiced his concerns about the loss of popular staff and the potential impact on community cohesion.
Freebridge officials say they will work with other agencies to bring in staff to run the café and are particularly keen to train apprentices there.
Director of housing Robert Clarke said: “We will be working with the Costa Proud to Serve brand to offer a great venue to meet, eat and drink right in the heart of Hillington Square.
“The café has already helped people to connect in the area, which is really important with the work which is taking place.
“We want the café to continue to offer affordable refreshments and provide a popular hub where people can get together and find out more about the regeneration.
“We think this is an exciting development for local residents and are looking forward to unveiling our new café in June.”
The café has been run by the Purfleet Trust for the past 18 months.
Its chief executive, Paula Hall, said: “We have worked closely with Freebridge and local residents to set the café up in the heart of Hillington Square and we look forward to seeing it open in its new guise.”
But Father Adrian Ling, rector of the area’s All Saints Church, said he was disappointed that Freebridge had chosen not to subsidise the café so the trust could continue to operate there.
He said: “They are doing excellent work, which we have been pleased to support.
“More and more groups and individuals are using the café and although takings have been relatively low, some 50 or more people are passing through the café most days.”
Fr Ling paid particular tribute to the café’s current manager, Kim Johnson, for her work to support volunteers and residents.
He said: “She is exactly the sort of person we need at the heart of Hillington Square, so it is especially sad that, just as things are coming together, and their work is bearing fruit, Purfleet have to withdraw.
“It is a pity that Freebridge have not been prepared to subsidise the Purfleet Trust in operating the café rather than starting a new operation which will prove much more expensive for them to run.”