PEOPLE in Southwold were this week urged to vote with their feet and support independent, locally-owned businesses when a national coffee chain opens in the town next month.

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Costa Coffee is now advertising for staff for its café in High Street and has confirmed it will open in “early February”.

Southwold Town Council and more than 600 people objected to the company’s plans to take the former Fanny & Franks’ clothes shop amid concerns that it could harm the town’s “unique character”.

But despite the fierce opposition, its plans were given the go-ahead by Waveney District Council’s development control committee in August after members opted to approve a re-submitted application amid angry scenes at Lowestoft Town Hall – having previously rejected the same proposals.

Although the campaign to prevent Costa Coffee opening failed, Guy Mitchell, chairman of Southwold Chamber of Trade, said townsfolk could still make their views count – and he called on customers to continue supporting local businesses when its new café opened.

“We are encouraging people across the board to use independent businesses rather than chains,” he said.

“Independent businesses give more back to the community, while by and large, chains only take from the community.”

Southwold mayor Michael Ladd added: “The success of the venture will be decided by people voting with their feet. We will have to wait and see what transpires in the next six months or so. Local people will make their own decision.”

Founded in London in 1971 by the Italian brothers Sergio and Bruno Costa as a wholesale operation, Costa Coffee is now owned by Whitbread PLC and is now the UK’s biggest coffee chain, and the second-biggest in the world after Starbucks, It has 1,375 UK shops, 2,500 vending machines and a further 800 outlets overseas.

A company spokesman said: “As planning permission has now been granted to Costa in Southwold, our first step is to start looking to employ local people for the new jobs that will be created by the opening of this branch.

“We are keen to play our part in the local Southwold community, acting as a responsible and supportive corporate citizen and making a valuable contribution to Southwold life.”

● See this week’s Lowestoft Journal for the full reaction.

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