Southwold: Coffee chain make second branch bid

A BATTLE over plans for a new coffee house in a seaside Suffolk town have taken a new twist after the national company behind the scheme re-submitted its application – less than a month after it was rejected.

Campaigners in Southwold condemned Costa Coffee’s move as “corporate arrogance” and vowed to fight against plans to open a branch in the High Street, in an effort to protect the town’s “unique character”

On June 19, Costa’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 an outlet would compliment independent retailers and employ local people.

They have urged the council to reconsider 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.”

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The planning application for change of use faced 97 objections before being turned down by Waveney councillors 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 would have a “detrimental impact” on the High Street and that other smaller caf�s may go out of business.

Secretary of the Southwold and Reydon Society, John Perkins, urged the council not to bow to pressure. He said: “We hope Waveney remains consistent.

“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.”

The letter re-submitting the planning application argues that planning regulations should not 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: “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.”

Costa Coffee declined to comment further.

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