A POPULAR cafe at Great Malvern's railway station could be forced out of business by a 300 per cent rent hike, says the owner.

Margaret Baddeley, who has run Lady Foley's Tea Room on the station's Platform One for the last 20 years, received a letter on Christmas Eve from solicitors representing West Midlands Rail Ltd, which runs the station.

She said: "It was completely out of the blue, and it said my lease would be terminated on July 5, and the new lease that I am being offered increases the rent by over 300 per cent.

"I'm now paying about £3,000 a year with VAT, and the new lease would mean I would have to pay something like £10,000 before VAT.

"The tea room is not a massive business, and I just could not afford to pay that. I'm in my 70s and my daughter Melissa is helping me more and more. I was hoping she could take it over more and more, but now it's all up in the air. We could be closed by July.

"The tea room has given much to the travelling public, besides selling refreshments. Lady Foley’s is a real asset to the station. So many people open the door and are amazed about the delightful room, wishing more stations had cafes like Lady Foley’s."

The cafe is named after Lady Emily Foley, who in the 19th century was a major influence in getting the station built. She had a waiting room made for her exclusive use, which is now the cafe.

Over the years, it has been commended for its character, sometimes being compared to the station cafe in the classic British film Brief Encounter.

A spokesman for West Midlands Trains Ltd said that the rent for the cafe had not been reviewed in 25 years.

A statement said: “The rents for tenants at many of our stations have been frozen for a number of years and as a result in many cases are significantly below market rate.

"We have been reviewing the rents being charged and are in the process of lining these up with the market value across our network.”