'This is the final straw' claims railway buffet as plans for new coffee kiosk are revealed
PUBLISHED: 15:15 29 November 2019 | UPDATED: 15:38 29 November 2019
A railway station cafe "central to the fabric of the local community" is under threat and claims it risks going bust if a new business moves in.
The Station Buffet in Manningtree has been a key feature in the town for decades and a planning application for a new shop down the platform has been received with anger by residents.
The application was made by Denni King, the owner of an independent coffee shop chain, who plans to occupy the newly converted storeroom.
A spokesperson for Greater Anglia said: "Passenger numbers are increasing at Manningtree station and we want to make sure there are sufficient refreshment facilities at the station for them.
"We recently converted a disused part of the station with a view to it becoming a coffee kiosk."
"A separate company has lodged an application with the council to change the use to a commercial premise."
Since published on Friday November 8 the application has drawn 136 objections from residents keen not to see their beloved buffet pushed out of business.
Paul Sankey, owner of the buffet, said: "Takeaway coffee is the biggest part of the business and without it we would have gone bust years ago.
"I wanted to leave something for my daughter but I can't retire and leave her this mess to deal with.
"This is the final straw."
Mr Sankey is 64-years-old and thinks it unlikely that he will be able to retire on time if the application gets approved.
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He also pointed out that increasing the number of catering services on the platform will not necessarily increase the customer base or footfall.
"That means any business they have is taking straight from our tills," he added.
Objections came in thick and fast from concerned residents.
Michael Coultharde-Steer of Lawford, said: "The buffet is a part of the fabric of our town, owned and run by local people, and its existence must not be jeopardised simply to generate a little extra income."
Mrs King was very surprised that the plan attracted so much opposition from concerned residents.
"It's completely understandable that they feel that way but we never meant to take anything away from the station buffet," she said.
"Greater Anglia told us that there would be enough business for everyone and we won't be directly competing.
"I am quite disappointed because we're not horrible people and aren't out to ruin anyone's business."
Mr Sankey has been attempting to have plans approved by Greater Anglia to expand the current business to improve the service, but has struggled after several setbacks.
The buffet lost their free parking spaces which were allocated in a gentleman's agreement years ago and as a result lost four staff members who could not afford the new parking charges.
When asked about their relationship with the buffet, Greater Anglia said: "As with all of our tenants, we regularly review their contract with us.
"More than a million people use Manningtree station every year and that number continues to increase.
"We want everyone to have a good journey when they travel with us and that includes providing a selection of places where they can buy refreshments."