WHAT DO YOU THINK? Southwold Costa Coffee objections reach 500 as national chain appeals

MORE than 500 objections have been lodged against plans by a national chain to open a new coffee shop in Southwold – with just seven letters of support.

The figures were revealed yesterday as campaigners steeled themselves for a new battle against Costa Coffee after it lodged an appeal against a decision to block its plans for a new caf� in High Street.

Waveney District Council is still considering the company's decision to re-submit its application for a 'change of use' for the former Fanny & Franks clothes shop, having initially had its plans rejected in June.

As public consultation on the new application was due to close this week, 508 people had registered their objections by yesterday (Thursday August 2) morning with just seven expressing their support.

The company's appeal on the first decision – which attracted 87 objections – has been condemned by Southwold campaigners as a 'bullying' tactic, which displayed a disregard for local communities.

But their hopes of stopping the plans were dealt a blow when it was announced that a group in Totnes in South Devon – which backed campaigners in Southwold – had lost its battle to stop Costa Coffee opening there.

John Perkins, secretary of the Southwold and Reydon Society, said: 'To lodge an appeal while the matter is still under consideration by Waveney District Council is the height of cynicism and is clearly designed to put pressure on councillors and council officials.

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'This is typical of their bullying approach and probably explains why the number of objections to the scheme from local residents and visitors to Southwold has now reached more than 500.'

The appeal, lodged by Costa Coffee and Gentian Developments, comes two-and-a-half weeks after the company re-submitted its original application.

Meanwhile, posters have been stuck up in the town calling for the plans to be thrown out under planning policy CS10 which stresses the importance of protecting existing 'retail, leisure and office facilities to ensure continued vitality and viability'.

At a meeting of Southwold Town Council on Tuesday, members were told that Waveney's planning officers would once again be raising no opposition to the company's plans, which are due to be discussed at a development control committee meeting at Lowestoft Town Hall on August 14 at 6pm

Guy Mitchell, of Southwold Chamber of Trade, said he was disappointed that Costa Coffee was ignoring the strength of feeling in the town

'We are not surprised that they have appealed, but disappointed they are wasting our council's time and resources by submitting the same application twice. Their action shows a complete lack of respect for the district council.

'I'm also disappointed that they are totally ignoring the fact that 500 people have said they don't want them. They are sending a strong message that they don't care about local communities.'

On June 19, Costa Coffee's application was turned down by members of the development control committee who went against their officers' recommendations – delighting dozens of Southwold people who attended the meeting.

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.

It claimed a Costa Coffee outlet would compliment independent retailers and employ local people, and it has urged the council to reconsidered its decision to refuse the application, or face an appeal.

The fight to stop Costa Coffee united Southwold and Totnes with both places fearing the chain's presence would affect local traders and suppliers.

But South Hams District Council has now approved plans by Costa Coffee to open in Fore Street, Totnes.

The mayor of Totnes, Pru Boswell, said: 'I'm an extremely cross mayor and very disappointed and upset. It's so alien to what the town's about.'

Costa Coffee previously told The Journal: 'This former Fanny & Franks' shop is currently vacant. During these difficult economic times, we believe most people would rather see the disused building turned into a thriving coffee shop, than remain empty.

'The new store would not only provide a social meeting place but will create a number of new jobs at a time when many high street shops are closing their doors.'

Costa Coffee has 1,300 outlets in the UK. The companyis run by Whitbread, which also owns budget-hotel chain Premier Inn and restaurants Beefeater Grill, Brewers Fayre, Table Table and Taybarns.

• To watch a video of Totnes' protest against Costa Coffee, click play above.

•WHAT DO YOU THINK? Register and leave a comment below to air your views.

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