WHAT DO YOU THINK? Costa Coffee resubmits plans to open in Southwold
THE battle over plans for a new coffee house in Southwold took a new twist this week when the national company behind the scheme re-submitted its application – less than a month after it was rejected.
Campaigners immediately condemned Costa Coffee's move as 'corporate arrogance' and vowed to fight on against its plans to open a branch in High Street, in an effort to protect the town's 'unique character'
On June 19, Costa Coffee's application was turned down by Waveney District Council's development control committee to the delight of dozens of Southwold people who attended the meeting at Lowestoft Town Hall.
But in a letter sent to the district council's planning team, estate agents Savills – representing Costa Coffee – argued that the increased competition caused by opening a new branch was not a planning issue, and claim a Costa Coffee outlet would compliment independent retailers and employ local people.
They have urged the council to reconsidered its decision to refuse the application or face a potential appeal. Guy Mitchell, chairman of Southwold and District Chamber of Trade, said: 'We were delighted that our elected councillors supported their community by refusing Costa Coffee's application.
'The fact that Costa Coffee have simply re-submitted their application is an act of corporate arrogance which shows a complete lack of respect for democracy. They are inferring that our councillors made a poor decision and that Costa are being helpful in offering them a second chance to make the right decision.
'It's the approach of a playground bully who has failed to get what he wants. Costa have twisted the reason for the refusal, suggesting that it about competition. We believe that there is plenty of competition in Southwold.
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'The fact is we need a variety of different businesses and do not want to see a High Street dominated by coffee providers. We're keen to remain a town which offers something different.
'Unfortunately large chains such as Costa are unable to accept that there is a place for difference and are intent on imposing their corporate model on all communities. Southwold is not alone in trying to protect its identity. Aldeburgh is actively opposing a Tesco development and has persuaded Boots not to open in the town. Totnes in Devon is also opposing Costa.'
The planning application for change of use, which would allow to drink and eat on the site on 70 High Street, faced 97 objections before being turned down by Waveney councillors at the meeting last month – despite being backed by district council planners.
Southwold mayor and district councillor Michael Ladd, who sat on the committee, told the meeting: 'Costa Coffee will have a detrimental impact on the High Street. The other smaller caf�s will probably go out of business if there are any other shops in the town centre.
'If this goes ahead it will have a severe detrimental impact on the town centre, I move therefore that this application is refused. I reiterate refusing on the grounds it breaches CS10 of the Waveney core strategy.'
Last night, the secretary of the Southwold and Reydon Society, John Perkins, urged the council not to bow to the pressure from Costa Coffee after refusing its application last month.
He said: 'We hope Waveney remains consistent. There is nothing in the re-submission that changes Costa's view at all and shows the companies bullying tactic.
'The danger if they don't is that Waveney's planning policy and strategy is blown to pieces. It would also make a mockery of the Southwold Town Plan.
'If this does go to Costa then it is open season on our high street for other national chains.
'And then we would start to see casualties because I don't think Southwold can maintain a 50-seater coffee house and keep other business as well. We hoped that Costa Coffee would see the light like Boots did in Aldeburgh.'
The letter re-submitting the planning application to the district council planning team was sent by an associate director of Savills, on June 25. It argues that planning regulations should be used to clamp down on 'fair competition' between businesses which, it says, Costa Coffee would offer if it opened in the town.
The letter states: 'The refusal reason fully reflects the discussions at the committee meeting, which revolved around the impact that competition created by the proposed use might have on other food and drink type uses within the centre. Regardless of the highly relevant fact that the planning system is not set up to prevent fair competition,
Costa uses regularly complement independent retailers and serve to offer a wider range of choice and
experience, which we believe will be the case in Southwold, where there are already independent and
branded chains operating successfully in the area. Importantly, subject to planning permission being granted
Costa Coffee are looking to make a firm commitment to the Southwold community and to employ local people
for the new jobs that will be created by the opening of this branch.'
The Journal approached Costa Coffee for a comment but no-one was available at the time of going to press. Meanwhile, rumours were rife yesterday that another national chain would be moving into Southwold after the launderette at 72 High Street, next door to the proposed Costa Coffee at number 70, shut up shop on Wednesday.
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