Costa proposal for former play cafe meets barrage of local opposition

Published on: 24 Mar 2017

PLANS by the giant coffee chain Costa to move into the centre of Downend have provoked concerns about the loss of individuality on the high street. 

Costa, part of the hospitality group Whitbread, wants to move into the former bank premises vacated by the Hungry Caterpillar Play Cafe after just eight months.

Because the play cafe received planning permission a year ago, Costa does not need consent for a coffee shop. It is seeking approval for new signage.

Originally, the scheme was posted on the council website as a proposed change of use, prompting about 20 comments.

Downend & Bromley Heath Parish Council discussed the developments at its planning committee on March 7 and at the full council on March 16.

Councillor Martyn Poole said many people had approached him to express concerns about the impact on the independent businesses and the character of the village centre, where much work has been done, especially by Downend & Bromley Heath in Bloom, to create a unique and individual atmosphere.

Worries were also expressed about the impact on traffic, as there are only three parking spaces outside the shop, meaning that drivers seeking takeaway drinks might be tempted to park illegally close by. 

But while some councillors feared for the current cafes , others felt that increased footfall in Downend might benefit existing businesses.

In any case, they concluded, market forces were not a planning consideration so there could be no objection to the Costa applications, which will be decided by South Gloucestershire Council.

Many residents voiced their opinions on the council site and on social media forums, including The Beehive Coffee House Facebook page. 

On the council site, Stephen and May Ann Taylor said: "The centre of Downend has improved over recent years with independent coffee shops, delicatessen, furniture retail etc and the excellent flower displays. The introduction of a big cafe franchise and its signage is just what is not needed."

Marian Henderson commented: "We have enough coffee shops in the area. We need to have more diversity of shopping otherwise the shopping area will die." 

Phoebe Lau, who runs the Beehive, pointed out in her comment there were already Costas in Emersons Green and the garage in Badminton Road and said Costa could be the beginning of the end for a lovely high street.

Chris Ford said on the cafe's Facebook page: "Hard working individuals who strive to create a unique business enterprise based on excellence will always win through. Each and every independent cafe in Downend has been born and survived on the basis of excellence. That's why they have achieved such a wonderful clientele that visit from far and wide. Costa has sought to capitalise on the hard work of these independents, to do their market research for them and slip in to a 'ready made market'."

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