FEARS that Chester could lose its unique identity have been sparked after a huge chain revealed plans to open its 11th outlet in the city.
The proposals to turn a unit on Watergate Street into a Costa offee shop have raised concerns that Chester could become an ‘identikit’ city.
Andy Tabberer, of Chester Culture, a group trying to promote the unique culture of the city, said Chester was in danger of becoming the same as everywhere else. He said: “We have enough coffee shops as it is and lots of pubs now supplement their trade by doing coffee in the day as well.
“I accept that it will create a few jobs but it is another step to a homogenous high street and coffee shops are the most obvious way of seeing that because there are so many.”
Andy Delooze, who runs The Barista’s on Watergate Street, believes more must be done to protect and promote independent traders or Chester risks becoming an ‘identkit’ city.
Costa already has 10 outlets in Chester and has now submitted an application to open an 11th in an empty shop on Watergate Street.
Whitbread PLC - who own the Costa brand - announced a five-year expansion plan two years ago and the empire now includes about 1,500 coffee shops.
Last year Costa ditched plans to open an outlet in Totnes, Devon, after campaign group No To Costa collected more than 5,000 signatures on a petition against the planned opening.
Mr Delooze, who accepts he cannot object on the grounds of loss of trade, believes the application could be something of a watershed moment.
He said: “The main issue is that it will be another A1 retail store gone. Chester is trying to be different.
“The council were looking at changing this area into the independent quarter and putting signs on The Cross but that’s going to be quite difficult now if there is a Costa there. It is probably the second largest brand in the UK behind Tesco - it is huge.
“We wanted to highlight it to people to say to Chester people what do you want? Do we want more shops and coffee shops or do we want something which is a bit more unique and a bit more independent?
“Some friends of mine went to Durham the other week and they were in the square and they saw a Boots, a Smiths, a Tesco and a Costa. Well you might as well be anywhere. They just wanted to go and find a different shop or restaurant but they couldn’t.”
Not all of the 10 Costas in Chester are fully branded shops but are outlets which sell their coffee but these are all listed on the Costa website.
Mr Delooze added: “Chester has got to, somehow, protect its independent traders otherwise it will become another Liverpool, Manchester or Wrexham. And what’s the difference?”