THE dispute between Malvern Hills Conservators and St Ann's Well cafe tenant John Redman looks set to go to mediation.

Conservators director Ian Rowat confirmed yesterday (Thursday) that the board had agreed with Mr Redman that the disagreement over the cafe's tenancy should be resolved this way.

The row erupted in October last year, when the Conservators said they proposed to take the Well back under their own management, and told Mr Redman that his lease, which he had held for 20 years, would not be renewed.

However, friends and supporters of Mr Redman rallied to his defence, and within a week of the announcement, a Facebook group called Save St Ann's Well had gained 3,000 members. Subsequently, celebrities including Mary McCartney and Benjamin Zephaniah, signed up to the campaign.

The Conservators have agreed to bear the costs of the mediation and to enter negotiations to achieve a resolution acceptable to both sides. Their objectives continue to be longer opening hours and to broaden the cafe's appeal.

Mr Rowat said: “Our intention is to reach a fair and workable conclusion and that will be to the benefit of all concerned and further the enjoyment of the hills.”

He said the mediation process will start as soon as is practical and emphasised there has never been any intention that the cafe should be closed.

Mr Redman said: "I'm glad that it's going to mediation, even though it will end up costing the ratepayer money. Had it had gone to court, I'm pretty sure we'd have won."