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'Deeply disappointing' - MP Brandon Lewis calls for rethink over training restaurant closure plan

PUBLISHED: 17:39 12 June 2019 | UPDATED: 17:39 12 June 2019

Brandon Lewis is demanding answers over the proposal to close Ambitions training restaurant  Photo: PA / David Mirzoeff

Brandon Lewis is demanding answers over the proposal to close Ambitions training restaurant Photo: PA / David Mirzoeff

PA Archive/PA Images

Great Yarmouth's MP has joined a chorus of concern over a college's plan to close its training restaurant.

A service underway at Ambitions, the training restaurant at East Coast College in Great Yarmouth, which is under threat of closure. Former student Sammie Sparrow (far left) has launched a petition to save it. Picture: Andrew FloridesA service underway at Ambitions, the training restaurant at East Coast College in Great Yarmouth, which is under threat of closure. Former student Sammie Sparrow (far left) has launched a petition to save it. Picture: Andrew Florides

Brandon Lewis said he had been contacted by constituents over East Coast College's proposal to close its Ambitions restaurant, hailed as a fertile training ground for a host of top chefs.

Mr Lewis said he had concerns around safeguarding with young people having to travel at night to a facility that was on their doorstep in a seaside town that thrived on hospitality.

Under the proposal Ambitions will close and catering students in Yarmouth will gain real-life restaurant experience at East in Lowestoft.

In a letter to college principal Stuart Rimmer, seen by this newspaper, he said the issue had caused "significant concern."

It comes as the restaurant served up its last lunch service this week, ending an era.

Sammie Sparrow during a service at Ambitions training restaurant. The 24-year-old kitchen manager has launched a petition to save it Picture: Andrew FloridesSammie Sparrow during a service at Ambitions training restaurant. The 24-year-old kitchen manager has launched a petition to save it Picture: Andrew Florides

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The letter said: "I find this decision deeply disappointing, and feel that in this case both the communities within the Great Yarmouth Borough and Lowestoft would be better served by retaining both Ambitions and the Lowestoft equivalent East.

"The Ambitions restaurant has had a good reputation in the town for many years, and is easy for local constituents to access.

"I am not persuaded that those currently learning at Ambitions will be as able to easily access East, and I know that many residents have significant safeguarding concerns regarding late night finishing times for younger students.

"Great Yarmouth is lucky to have a huge number of locally run and owned restaurants and for years Ambitions has been a cornerstone of this local provision."

It goes on: "I would ask you to review this decision and should you decide to proceed, provide details of the business case used to justify this decision."

Some 450 people have signed a petition to keep the restaurant open hailing it as a "fantastic facility" for the town, helping to launch the careers of a host of chefs, some of whom have gone on to open their own restaurants.

Vicky Russ, director of curriculum development and partnerships at East Coast, has previously said catering and hospitality training would continue at both campuses but there was no longer a need to run both restaurants.

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