Marlborough High Street not a special case, argues Caffè Nero (From The Wiltshire Gazette and Herald)
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'Town has above average number of clothes shops but is not unique'
Coffee giant Caffè Nero argued that the High Street in Marlborough could not be treated as a special case when a planning appeal reopened.
Caffè Nero moved into 21-22 High Street on March 24 last year and began trading on April 30 without change of use planning permission.
Wiltshire councillors later turned down Caffè Nero Holdings’ change of use application despite being advised by planning officers to accept it. Caffè Nero appealed against the decision, continuing to trade in the meantime.
Sarah Clover, for Wiltshire Council, told the resumed hearing at the town hall last Thursday that the high proportion of women’s fashion shops was what makes Marlborough individual.
But planning consultant Chris Green gave evidence in support of the coffee chain stating that this was not the case.
Mr Green said: “There is a very heavy predominance of ladies’ fashion wear in Marlborough, it’s certainly greater than the national average but it’s not unique.
“If you look at the reasons for refusal in the council’s consideration of the application and also the reasons for giving the enforcement notice it suggests that the individuality is made up of the independent retailers but the evidence that I have put down in detail suggests that is not the case and the proportion of national retailers is actually below the national average.
“To my mind the individuality of Marlborough is much wider, principally it’s concerned with the environment.
“I don’t think Marlborough is an individual High Street in terms of retail offerings.”
This opinion was echoed by James Findlay, counsel for Caffè Nero Holdings, during his closing submission.
He said: “Marlborough’s retail functions are similar to many other market towns and it is a mistake to consider it is unique or even significantly different to other similar centres.
“Marlborough is not that individual in terms of retail, although it has an above average number of clothes shops which are at particular risk at this time of ever increasing internet shopping.”
In her closing submission Mrs Clover said that the council did not have anything against Caffè Nero but argued that its “one size fits all approach” was not suitable for Marlborough.
When the appeal opened, in January, six residents gave evidence in support of Wiltshire Council’s decision to reject Caffè Nero’s application while two spoke in support of the chain.
Planning inspector Phil Grainger is expected to make a decision as to whether Caffè Nero can continue to operate as a cafe this month.
If the full application is refused the chain may be allowed to continue trading as a takeaway.