Go-ahead for coffee shop chain in St Albans despite opposition

PUBLISHED: 06:12 30 May 2014

Caffé Nero

Caffé Nero

Archant

Coffee chain Caffé Nero has won the right to open in the city centre despite the bid brewing up strong opposition from campaigners in support of independent retailers.

St Albans planning central committee gave the go-ahead on Tuesday night to Caffé Nero to open a new coffee shop in the former Monsoon store in Market Place, St Albans.

They took the decision in the face of nearly 200 letters of objection following a campaign spearheaded by Marion Hammant and backed by St Albans Civic Society to persuade councillors that there are already too many coffee multiples in the city.

The objectors raised a number of issues as well as the over-saturation of coffee shops including the homogenisation of the city centre, lack of support for local enterprise and additional rubbish and wheelie bins on Pudding Alley.

But councillors went along with the recommendation of their officers that the proposal was an appropriate use for the building and would contribute to the vitality and visibility of the city centre.

Eric Roberts of the Civic Society said that Marion had felt strongly that if 184 people had taken the trouble to write individual letters of objection, feelings were running high

And he criticised councillors for the lack of ‘enthusiastic debate’ on the issue even though by allowing a coffee shop in Market Place they were breaching their own policy on retail shopping frontage use in Market Place by allowing it to fall to 83 per cent from 90 per cent.

He went on: “Their attitude is rudderless and inevitable. Now we have got this, where does the line get drawn? There doesn’t seem to be any direction and that is why it is worrying.

“The council has to get a grip on this and start standing up to the traders.”

Stressing he had nothing against Caffé Nero, Eric added: “I would not be surprised if we see some of our local cafes eventually fold.”

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Recently we, as a family (minus two of the kids), visited The Lodge RSPB reserve in Sandy, Bedfordshire. I had never been before, which is perhaps amiss of me as a birdwatcher as it is the headquarters of the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds or RSPB and only 45 minutes drive from home.

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