The development application opened to public comment for a month last week.
The development application opened to public comment for a month last week.

Developer explains move to make cafe a child care centre

DEVELOPER Anthony Cougle has answered community opposition to his company's plans to covert the Beachstone Cafe into a child care centre and coffee kiosk.

Mr Cougle's company, Cougle Investments Pty Ltd, developed the first four stages of North Sapphire Beach Estate and has now lodged a development application with Coffs Harbour City Council to convert the beachfront cafe site into an early learning centre.

The refit is estimated to cost $350,000.

Sapphire Beach residents have this week conducted neighbourhood letterbox drops and social media campaigns in opposition to the plans, while posting submissions against the proposal on the council's DA listing online.

Mr Cougle responded saying the company was attempting to provide the Sapphire community with a much-needed facility.

"Through this proposal we are trying to offer the community the best of both worlds, in establishing a child centre and a hole-in-the-wall food kiosk offering coffee and food," Mr Cougle said.

Cougle Investments owns the Emerald Beach child care centre building that's currently operated by Ohana Early Learning.

"To be honest the cafe has never been as viable as we intended, and that is no reflection on the current operators of Beachstone Cafe," he said.

Beachstone Cafe and Bar
Beachstone Cafe and Bar

"The community just doesn't have the volume of traffic that a cafe in the centre of town would have and the playground and park are more of a hub than the actual cafe.

After developing North Sapphire Beach Estate in 2007, the Cougle family won a state award for best residential development.

Mr Cougle said the family spent $255,000 dedicating the playground to the community as the centrepiece of the estate and ran the cafe for the first year and a half after it was built at a cost of $250,000.

"After the playground opened, it was the best spot for families and kids in Coffs, the Brelsford Park playground hadn't been built at that point, so there were families from everywhere in the park. Locals complained they couldn't get access and even then it was hard to make the cafe viable.

Since then, he said four separate tenants had taken on leases on the Beachstone Cafe and even while staging weddings, and functions at night, they had worked harder than the financial return from the business.

The development application to convert Beachstone Cafe into a childcare centre will go before Coffs Harbour City Council for consideration next month.
The development application will go before Coffs Harbour City Council for consideration.

"I'd like to correct a lot of misinformation that is circulating about our plans," he said.

"The community will still have access to the playground, the fence around the building would be built on top of the stone retaining wall behind the cafe and the building would only be expanded to the west on land we own.

"It would be built in an architectural vein, an extension under the existing awning, and it would be in keeping with the fine design of the whole estate.

The public toilet block, he said would remain a public asset, and the coffee kiosk would be built in the current disabled toilet inside the cafe.

"Our family is proud of the developments and estates we have created at North Sapphire, Sandy Beach, Emerald Beach, we have always contributed heavily to employment in Coffs Harbour by virtue of doing the things that we do.

"Even with DA approval, I'm not saying we are going to proceed with the childcare centre right about, this is about keeping the options open.

"It may be 12-months to two years before the plans are actioned if they are approved."

Anthony, Danny and Dean Cougle will make themselves available at Beachstone Cafe next Thursday at 5pm to chat with residents about the proposal.