PLANNING officers have recommended controversial plans for Costa to open its 11th outlet in the city be approved.
The coffee giant wants to open the outlet on Watergate Street despite objections from independent traders and residents in Chester that it would upset the ‘balance’ between independents and chains.
Officers have recommended approval before a licensing meeting on Tuesday, saying that despite the loss of a retail unit on the street there are ‘exceptional circumstances that would ensure the unit contributes to the attraction and vitality of Watergate Street’.
They say the shop would not impact on the viability of the street for retail and also point out the high number of empty shops on the street already – 16 per cent are currently empty, which is above the national average of 13.6 per cent – as reasons for approval.
The council has received a number of objections from residents. One of the objectors, Paul Sandford, wrote: “I enjoy spending time in Chester very much. I’m very proud of the city and the wonderful mix of history, heritage and culture it has to offer. I appreciate that investment in the city from retailers is incredibly important to help the city’s economy. I’d simply like to point out that one of the many attractions of the city is a healthy balance between the old and the new; between the large and the small; between the chain and the independent.
“Getting that balance right is key to continuing to support the city as it attempts to raise itself out of the ashes of the recent recession. I really like having the varied choice between well known, larger brands and the smaller independent businesses. Whether it’s looking for clothes, shopping for a gift, finding a bite to eat or a place to sit down and enjoy a coffee.
“I object to the application to open a Costa Coffee in Watergate Street because I feel it upsets the balance I’ve tried to describe.
“I have no connection with any business in Chester. I’m a patron of coffee shops large and small and I love the city of Chester. Please don’t spoil it.”
Andy Delooze, who runs The Barista’s coffee shop on Watergate Street, believes more must be done to protect and promote independent traders or Chester risks becoming an ‘identikit’ city.
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.”