As Costa looks set to open a new outlet in Cromer, business leaders warn: Hands off our high street!
- Credit: Archant
Aggressive tactics by large corporations to swallow up independent stores will not be tolerated in Cromer, local business leaders have warned.
Gary Dickenson, President of Cromer Chamber of Trade and Business, spoke out after it was announced national coffee chain Costa is set to open a new 93-seat outlet in the town – prompting fears for 'Cromer's 100% independent offering of coffee shops, eateries and restaurants'.
He has vowed to do everything he can to protect the town's high street and is inviting businesses who may be affected to come together to discuss a potential plan of action.
The revelation follows concerns first raised last year that local traders could lose out if more national chains are allowed to move in to north Norfolk.
Mr Dickenson, who is also a member of Cromer Town Council, said: 'We are extremely proud of Cromer's 100% independent offering of coffee shops, eateries and restaurants. These are run by hardworking individuals and families who have given their all to make their businesses a success and in turn make Cromer the success that it is.
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'Cromer's independent offering brings customers friendly bespoke customer service, a unique product offering, local knowledge and locally sourced products, money circulates and stays within the town. A homogenised service and product offering such as Costa's cannot deliver this and profits would be stripped from the town, I fail to see what Costa can bring that Cromer doesn't already offer.
'I wish to make it abundantly clear that the usual aggressive tactics by large corporations to swallow up independents will not be tolerated here In Cromer, the stronghold resolve of our community, its businesses and their owners should not be underestimated.'
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And he added: 'I will be personally writing to all businesses in Cromer who could be affected to ask if they would like to come together to discuss their concerns and plan any further action.'
Peterborough-based architects and surveyors Portess and Richardson were last year granted persmission for a change of use, from A1 shops and business to A3 restaurants and cafes, as part of the application on behalf of Monument Group Limited for 61-63 Church Street, currently home to charity shops Sue Ryder and Cancer Research
The applicants, who plan to knock the two outlets into one, argued that the larger retail unit could attract more jobs to a town which, it is claimed, has bucked the current downturn with relatively few retail closures.
Mr Dickenson said: 'There has been much speculation regarding the new occupants of 61-63 Church Street and now that it is clear that it is Costa and taking into account the sheer size of the proposed outlet the word I would choose to use about how I and others feel about this is 'uncomfortable'.
'Cromer is a vibrant mix of mostly independent retailers and some nationals. The nationals we do have on the whole complement our high street offering and make it the unique experience that it is. That's the charm of Cromer, that's why so many visit us and they say 'Cromer isn't like other high streets'.'
But he added: 'If Costa wish to reach out to myself and other parties to discuss their plans and how they feel they can meet the high community based expectations of them then I would welcome that.'
Costa's parent company Whitbread also owns Premier Inn which, it is understood, is also searching for a site in the town - with part of the Cadogan Road car park site being mooted as one potential location, much to the concern of nearby accommodation providers.
Cromer Town Council revealed it was powerless to reject the plans for Costa. The town's former mayor has branded the national chain's plans for seaside resort as 'excessive'.
Councillor Tim Adams said: 'The Town Council was unhappy with the level of information in the planning application for this project, but had nothing to rely on in terms of planning policy to successfully object to the application. The planning application was approved by North Norfolk District Council in November.
'I'm personally extremely reticent about such a thing coming to Cromer. Money spent on local businesses in Cromer stays in the local area, whereas a company like Costa does not even use local suppliers. I feel our existing cafes and restaurants offer something locally distinctive and unique that a Costa cannot possibly compete with, but I feel that a 93-seater cafe is excessive.
'My message to all of the multi-nationals who come to Cromer is simple: There is an expectation that you won't undermine our existing shops and employers, and contribute to local charities and events such as the Carnival, Christmas Lights and Fireworks, as our local businesses do.'
At the time of publication, Costa had not yet responded to our requests for a response.