‘Costa Coffee not needed’ Southwold campaigners claim

SOUTHWOLD already has enough caf�s and restaurants where people can buy hot drinks, according to a survey compiled by a group opposed to Costa Coffee's bid to open in the town.

The Southwold and Reydon Society says that allowing the company to open a new coffee house would lead to an 'excessive' amount of hot drinks sellers that could spoil the vitality and viability of the High Street.

The society's survey, released this week, says the 800 or so people who live in Southwold can already choose from 20 coffee outlets, which together have 1,000 seats and sell about 25,000 cups of coffee each summer. It also points out that many visitors only come to the Southwold for its 'unique character' and may not visit if Costa opens.

The results of the survey have been sent to Waveney District Council as part of the society's objection to Costa Coffee's re-submitted application to allow it to serve food and drink at 70, High Street. This will be discussed by Waveney's development control committee at Lowestoft Town Hall on Tuesday at 6pm.

In the society's submission to the council, its chairman Prof Michael Rowan-Robinson writes: 'We argue that these outlets give more than ample provision of hot drinks on and around Southwold High Street and that the addition of the 50-seater Costa Coffee outlet would represent an excessive cumulative impact.

'The total number of seats available in the current 20 outlets is just under 1,000 and this must surely be sufficient for a town whose current permanent population is around 800.

'The total number of hot or cold drinks served in the summer season per week is approximately 25,000. We therefore argue that the arrival of Costa would represent an excessive cumulative provision of hot drinks on Southwold High Street and that this would detract from the vitality and viability of the High Street.'

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The society's objection is among 572 submitted to the council as part of a public consultation that closed on August 1. There have also been seven letters of support.

Costa's application for a 'change of use' at 70 High Street was turned down by the district council in June. The national chain resubmitted its plans less than a month later.

Since then, Costa Coffee has appealed against the decision to turn down its original application.

Mr Rowan-Robinson said: 'We have also carried out a pilot survey of visitor opinion. Over a period of four hours on a sunny Saturday, 200 leaflets were handed out about the Costa application on Southwold High Street.

'At least half of those contacted in this way described themselves as visitors to the town. All of these visitors bar one said that the reason they came to Southwold was the unique and individual character of the High Street and that they would probably not visit in future if Costa came to Southwold.'

Costa Coffee says its new caf� would create jobs and fill an empty shop during poor economic times.