Protests bubble up in last bid to halt coffee giant

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A NEW protest campaign has been launched in Bakewell to try to halt Costa Coffee opening a branch in the town - even though the company won permission after an appeal to the Government.

Objectors say it will be the biggest campaign Bakewell has witnessed, standing up for independent traders and the character of the historic market town. Costa may have won their application, but not the hearts and minds of local people, they argue.

An online petition has been launched which organisers say has already attracted 2,000 names.

Protesters were delighted when the Peak District National Park Authority rejected the scheme for the former Bennets premises in King Street. Then the decision was overturned on appeal.

Government planning inspector Ian McHugh concluded that a Costa - in premises empty since August 2011 - would have “a positive rather than a negative effect on both the King Street frontage and on the town centre as a whole”. It would “add to the number of people and general activity in the conservation area”.

He dismissed concerns over road safety, and said he was “unable to give any weight” to objections on the ground that the operator would be part of a national chain because he had to determine the appeal only on its planning merits.

But critics say Bakewell appeals to tourists because of its many independent shops, especially coffee shops, restaurants and traditional pubs.

They fear Bakewell will end up looking like any other town. Once Costa is in, other big coffee shop and sandwich chains will follow.

Kath Girling, of the Naughty and Nice coffee shop and chocolatier in King Street, said: “We are trying people power and hope that will do the trick.”

She added: “Bakewell is saturated with coffee shops and cafes. Costa will not be able to create any extra footfall to cover their costs, and it will impinge on existing coffee shops and cafes, many of who use local suppliers.”

No date has been set an opening of the Costa Coffee.

A spokesperson said: “We feel the vibrancy of Bakewell and the sense of community spirit lends itself well to a Costa coffee shop.”

The company worked closely with planning departments across the country.

“We strongly believe that coffee shops like Costa have a role to play in local investment and employment. Costa employs over 11,000 people in the UK and this year alone will be creating an additional 1,500 jobs.

“A typical Costa store employs between six and ten people and this will be the case in Bakewell.

“We appreciate that this can be a highly emotive issue for some people. We honestly do not think that anyone should see Costa as a threat. Our offering is very different to local independent coffee shops and we know from experience that people can and will use both, depending on their needs.

“We believe that the majority of people would rather see a disused building turned into a thriving business, employing local people, than remain vacant. We have received telephone calls and letters from various local residents who are in support of us opening.”

Coun Lesley Roberts, chair of the Peak District National park planning committee, said: “This was a difficult decision, but we listened to the voices of local people, looked at the scale and location of the proposal and took a view that it would have affected the vitality and viability of the town centre, and alter the character of the conservation area.

“We accept that the inspector reached a different conclusion, but he did acknowledge that the authority had not acted unreasonably. For that reason he did not support the application for costs against the authority, which is significant.”