THE future of the former Whitegate Station has been secured, with a 30-year Community Asset Transfer lease agreed.

Closed to passengers in the 1960s, the Station House has been transformed into a community-run café with trike hire, craft workshops and small business space by the Whitegate Station Community Group.

A deal has been struck with Cheshire West and Chester Council, whose rangers used the facility until 2015 before it was taken over by the community group that May.

The group started with an initial six month tenancy to test their Neighbourhood Plan (NP) priority to put the Station House back into community use.

Cllr Louise Gittins, CWAC cabinet member for communities and wellbeing, said: “Following the café refurbishment by volunteers and a highly successful test period we received a business case requesting a full repairing and insuring lease of at least thirty years for the Station House building and toilet block.”

The business case identified the valuable community space for residents, also providing opportunities for volunteering, work experience and jobs.

The group has identified a number of improvements required to make best use of the buildings and outbuildings for the café use. New plans incorporate a larger kitchen, Victorian-style covered outdoor seating and modern toilet facilities.

Gary Cliffe, community group director said: “Thanks to Cheshire West and Chester Council we have now secured the building for the next 30 years and are delighted to confirm that our planning application has also been approved.

“We have succeeded in our bid for funding from The Veolia Environmental Trust, their grant means that the café’s future as a community run project is secure, it also enables us to fund a much needed kitchen extension and new toilet block for visitors. We are also very grateful for the top-up funding provided by Whitegate and Marton Parish Council.”

Cllr Gittins added: “The Whitegate Station Community group has worked with many local organisations.

"Petty Pool College students are gaining valuable work experience and office space was quickly let to a start-up business.

“They have also been exhibiting and selling artwork by local artists and started a service renting three wheel trikes to use on Whitegate Way.”

The station house is open weekdays 10am to 3pm, weekend and Bank Holidays 10am to 4pm.

The railway station itself initially sat on the West Cheshire Railway, which later served the Cheshire Lines Committee.