Southwold complaints lodged over Costa Coffee meeting

Campaigners in Southwold have lodged formal complaints about a council planning meeting where Costa Coffee won approval for its controversial bid to open a new caf� in the town.

In letters seen by The Journal, the Southwold and District Chamber of Trade and the Southwold and Reydon Society (SRS) express their anger about the way in which Waveney District Council's development control committee gave the go-ahead for the company to open at 70, High Street.

The chairman of the Southwold and District Chamber of Trade, Guy Mitchell, highlights five areas of concern, including the alleged failure to include key documents submitted by objectors and the decision to approve a re-submitted application that had already been thrown out by councillors.

In a separate letter, SRS chairman, Michael Rowan-Robinson, raises similar concerns.

The groups are also united in their condemnation of the way the final vote was taken during the meeting on August 14. An extract from the chamber of trade's letter reads: 'The voting process at the end of the meeting was poorly managed with the chairman appearing to lose control of the meeting.

'From the public gallery, it appeared that the initial vote was 7-6 against the application.

'To provide transparency, we would like the council to provide details regarding which councillors voted for and against the application on each occasion.

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'We would also like confirmation that the re-votes were permissible and request a copy of the relevant pages of the procedure which demonstrate the re-vote's legitimacy.'

Meanwhile, extracts from the society's letter also raised concerns about the voting system: 'I think it can also be asked why, after the second tied vote (6-6, with one abstention), the chairman's casting vote was not used to maintain the status quo, namely that the Costa application had been rejected at the June meeting.

'It was the apparent disregard for the democratic process that so enraged people in the public gallery and understandably perhaps led to the meeting spinning out of control and the chamber having to be cleared.'

A spokesman from Waveney District Council said: 'We can confirm that a letter has been received from the Southwold and Reydon Society and, as with all correspondence we receive, we will be responding to them in due course.'

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