Poll: ‘No need’ for more coffee chains as Costa reveal expansion plan in Bury St Edmunds

Costa Coffee in the Arc in Bury.

Costa Coffee in the Arc in Bury. - Credit: Archant

THE expansion of a coffee chain in a west Suffolk town could damage independent locally-owned business, traders have said.

According to documents submitted to St Edmundsbury Borough Council, Costa Coffee is looking to increase the size of its existing branch in the Arc, Bury St Edmunds, by a third.

The chain has applied for permission to change a neighbouring vacant retail unit into a coffee shop; an extension that would allow 31 more tables and 80 additional seats.

Costa claim the current unit, which has been in place since the opening of the Arc, is “overtrading” and that there is “demonstrable demand” for extra room.

But independent coffee houses yesterday questioned the need for the expansion, especially with other chains including Starbucks and Cafe Nero operating in the town.

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Louise Tyrell, who owns Baileys2 in Whiting Street with her fiancé Dean Foster, said: “The more these chain coffee shops keeps coming up, it makes it harder for us independent ones.

“But we are lucky here that we have regular clientele. There’s a mix of customers, there are some people who want fast food, fast coffee, where it is just going in and out. Then there are others, who you find in a lot of the independent places, where it is more about the experience.

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“You come in and sit down, and enjoy reading the paper and just having a bit of quiet down time.”

Ms Tyrell added: “There’s no more need for chains, the existing Costa is already very big. We’ve got Starbucks and Nero, and they are all dotted about.”

Richard Bird, owner of The Street Level Cafe in Abbeygate Street, who said parking charges had encouraged a “take-out” coffee culture, claimed chain coffee houses could really impact on trade.

He added: “I know when Nero opened up the road that really affected us. I went non-smoking before the ban came in and I knew it would take two years to pull those customers back. They were just starting to come back when Cafe Nero opened up and I lost my early morning trade, it just disappeared.

“When Starbucks opened up in the town centre, that emptied everything out there. That is the power of the brand and the big name.”

A spokeswoman for Costa said: “Coffee shops are popular meeting hubs for people and bring substantial benefits to surrounding businesses, bringing people into town centres and spending money in the local area.”

She added: “We honestly do not think that anyone should see Costa as a threat to independent businesses. We think people like to have a choice - our offering is very different to local independent coffee shops and we believe that people can and will use both, depending on their needs.”

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