Cromer traders face financial blow as national chains move in

Business leaders claim Costa is set to move in to the Sue Ryder and Cancer Research UK shops in Crom

Business leaders claim Costa is set to move in to the Sue Ryder and Cancer Research UK shops in Cromer's Church Street. Picture: ALEX HURRELL - Credit: Archant

Fears have been voiced that local traders could lose out if more national chains are allowed to move in to north Norfolk - and signal the end of the road for the traditional high street.

A shopkeeper in Cromer has this week spoken out after North Norfolk District Council approved controverisal plans to knock two town centre stores into one - despite objections - prompting speculation that coffee company Costa or fast-food restaurant McDonalds could be set to open their first outlets in the area.

It follows the announcement that pub giant Wetherspoon's is nearing a move to North Walsham and confirmation that budget hotel chain Travelodge is searching for a site in Cromer.

And, with two long-established businesses at risk of closure as a result of the latest plans at 61-63 Church Street, Cromer - charity shops Sue Ryder and Cancer Research - community leaders have called for more to be done to protect the 'relatively unspoilt seaside town'.

Peterborough-based architects and surveyors Portess and Richardson have applied 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.

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Elizabeth Jarmin, property manager at Sue Ryder, said: 'Cromer is still a relatively unspoilt seaside town with many quirky, old fashioned and individual shops. We feel that charity retail sits comfortably in this setting. Granting of A3 consent may lead to the introduction of a national restaurant/coffee shop chain which may not be considered appropriate to the conservation area.

?'There are already a good number of cafes (around 25) and restaurant/eateries (around 30) in the town and we would question the need to increase the numbers or if the population could support it.

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'A lot of these cafes etc are run by local people who could be put out of business.

'Obviously, Sue Ryder will lose the use of their retail shop. This will be a financial blow to the charity who have been in occupation since January 1990 and rely heavily on their retail shops to provide funds to support provision of care within their hospices, neurological centres and community services.' And she added: 'Cancer Research will also lose the use of their shop from which they have traded for 27 years.'

A change of use class from B1 to A1 and A1 to A3 would ordinarily be permitted development, however a planning application was required in this instance, as the proposal is within the Cromer Conservation Area.

Ms Jarmin continued:?'If it transpires that a McDonalds/Costa type business is set up, there are issues surrounding parking to the front of the building already evident with use of the cashpoint.

'At the moment, drivers - particularly vans and lorries - bump up onto the pavement and leave their vehicles whilst they use the cashpoint. There is nothing to stop them doing the same whilst picking up takeout food or beverages.'

She added: 'It would seem appropriate that any restaurant may need to be open in the evening and/or require an alcohol licence. Would this be welcomed in this area of Cromer?'

The applicants argue 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.

Another objector added: 'We feel very strongly that this is a bad idea, one that shouldn't be considered and one that will be to the detriment of the town.'

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