A CHARITY volunteer is celebrating after being given the go-ahead to move his make-shift café to a new location so he can continue his fundraising work.
Derek Hepple raised around £250 a week by selling tea, coffee and scones to dog walkers and passers-by from two caravans parked outside his home in Marine View, Seaton Sluice.
Every Sunday between 7.30am and 5pm, the 69-year-old and his wife Sandra catered for people to raise cash for Bedlington-based dog rescue charity SHAK (Safe Homes and Kindness).
But in December last year he was forced to scale down his fundraising to just two Sundays each month after an investigation by the county council into a number of complaints.
He said the decision, giving him temporary permission for 12 months, has resulted in less money for SHAK, which rescues and cares for large dogs with behaviour, aggression and health problems, which otherwise would be put down.
But now, after lengthy discussions between Mr Hepple, the county council and Seaton Valley Parish Council, permission has been granted to move the caravan from his driveway to a public car park across the road on the seafront, allowing him to revert back to opening every Sunday and bank holiday from next month.
Mr Hepple will also act as a local environmental champion for the council.
A former police officer, he said: “I would just like to say a big thank you to parish council chairman Bob Watson and county officials, including Steve Bucknall and Andy Rutherford, for their help.
“I am overjoyed I have been given permission to move across the road where I started my fundraising seven years ago.
“The income has dropped significantly since the café’s hours have been scaled down and now I’m hoping to raise a lot more money for SHAK.
“The charity has had to hold bag packs at Asda to try and raise the money they’ve lost since December.”
Mr Rutherford, head of highways and neighbourhood services at Northumberland County Council ,said: “We have agreed to enter into a partnership with Mr Hepple.
“We will be developing a low cost hard standing area using recycled material on the edge of the car park where he can carry out his charity fundraising activities.
“In return Mr Hepple has agreed that he will support the council in a role of voluntary local environmental champion, acting as the eyes and ears of the council to tackle any environmental issues in the area.”