A new café at the former Polly Tea Rooms in Devizes is giving long-term unemployed people a fresh start.

The Right Time Café is the first of a chain of establishments set up by a company borne out of the rehabilitation of offenders at Erlestoke Prison.

Celebrity chef Peter Vaughan cut the ribbon to officially launch the new venture on Saturday.

Steve Dowler, chairman of the Right Time Company, which runs the café, explained the thinking behind the idea.

He said: “The company started in the prison in July 2006.

“It is a community interest company, or CIC, set up for the purpose of community benefit and not for making a profit.”

Mr Dowler said the idea behind the company began with prisoners making bird boxes and garden tables for sale at the prison shop.

Eventually the company took over Vicarage Lane Nurseries at Easterton Sands, near Devizes, with workshops for training in horticulture, woodworking, engineering and catering.

The company’s focus has changed considerably since it was set up.

Mr Dowler said: “We don’t have any prisoners working with us any more.

“We have moved towards helping people at risk of offending, such as the jobless and homeless, who have had a bad time and need a fresh start.”

When the Polly Tea Rooms closed on the former Co-op site in the Market Place at the beginning of this year, the company approached the owners about taking on the lease.

Mr Dowler said: “This is not a temporary project. We are here to stay.

“This is the first of a chain of cafés. The next one will probably be in Gloucester.”

Pricing at the cafe is very competitive, with pasta meals at £5 for adults and £3 for children’s portions.

Sandwiches start at £2.50 and baguettes at £3.