Wisbech truck stop owner who welded himself inside Guyhirn Lay-by Cafe in eviction battle dies aged 68

Mr Hawes pictured during his protest, in 1993.

Mr Hawes pictured during his protest, in 1993. - Credit: Archant

A former truck stop owner who spent six months welded inside his cafe when officials tried to evict him from a lay-by has died suddenly at the age of 68.

The Guyhirn Lay-by Cafe pictured yesterday.

The Guyhirn Lay-by Cafe pictured yesterday. - Credit: Archant

Peter Hawes, who ran the Guyhirn Lay-by Cafe, on the A47 near Wisbech for 40 years, passed away in the Queen Elizabeth Hospital, on July 26.

Last night staff at the business, whose current owner did not wish to be named, pledged to 'carry on the legacy'.

Mr Hawes, of Marshland St James, fought a two year battle with the Department of Transport in the early 1990s after he was ordered off the Guyhirn Lay-by, on the A47, for safety reasons.

He claimed that he was offered another site at the Chapel Lay-by, near Wisbech, but the offer was later withdrawn.

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Mr Hawes barricaded himself into the cafe in April 1993, remaining inside for 196 days, which included missing his father's funeral and celebrating his 48th birthday locked inside the truckstop, which was decked out with balloons by well-wishers.

Despite go-slows by lorry drivers and a meeting between MP Henry Bellingham and the then roads minister Kenneth Carlisle, the lay-by was eventually landscaped and the Hawes moved on to another site near Wisbech.

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Mr Hawes sold the cafe five years ago to an undisclosed buyer. Stuart Staples, who has managed the business for the last two years, said: 'All the customers who knew him say he was a real character. He could be abrupt, so you either liked him or you didn't.

'You've got to respect the way he stood up for his rights during the dispute. We hope we can carry on the legacy of this cafe.'

Mr Hawes and his late wife, Jenny, were offered compensation but said all they wanted was another site where they could run their business, which served hundreds of drivers a day.

As they battled to re-build their business, in early 1995, the couple also suffered a burglary and an arson attack, which cost them thousands.

The couple's battle to keep save their 'greasy spoon' highlighted the plight of roadside cafe owners, many of whom pay rates but exist in a grey area where they have few rights.

Mr Hawes leaves two children, Amos and Jane. His funeral will be held at Mintlyn, at 12.15pm tomorrow. Family flowers only have been requested and Mr Hawes's family also request no children attend.

Donations will be shared between the East Anglian Air Ambulance and Cancer Research UK.

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