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Caffé Nero set to carry on brewing in Marlborough
Caffé Nero will remain in Marlborough High Street after winning its planning appeal.
The battle came to an end last Thursday when an 11-page report by planning inspector Phil Grainger was published, quashing an enforcement notice issued by Wiltshire Council against the coffee giant.
He reached this decision to allow the company to continue trading from 21-22 High Street after a two-day public hearing at Marlborough Town Hall which concluded on February 7.
In the report he said no evidence given during the hearing could lead him to the conclusion that Nero’s presence in the High Street damaged the vitality and viability of Marlborough.
He stated: “The fact that the coffee shop has now been open for about nine months means that there has been the opportunity for harmful effects to have occurred and been noticed.
“I would have expected businesses to have noticed a reduction in customers or trade if there had been a serious effect.”
But this is not a sentiment that John Kirkman, chairman of the Campaign to Protect Rural England, Kennet District Group, agrees with. He said: “Wiltshire Council policies require the coffee shop to show a positive effect on the town centre. The inspector has reached his decision mainly because he can see no evidence of harm – that’s not the same thing.
“His conclusion would be more credible if presented with greater conviction. The substitution of a café for a retail shop is a blow to Marlborough as a place where people spend time looking for goods to buy.”
Marlborough town councillor Richard Pitts, who spoke against Caffé Nero at the appeal, said: “It’s a very disappointing day for Marlborough. They didn’t choose that site for no reason, they chose it because of its prominence in the High Street.
“It’s a huge shame that a company can show complete disregard for the planning process and get away with it.”
Caffé Nero moved into the site on March 24 last year, days after submitting a change of use application, although it did not begin trading until April 30. The company has now won 17 out of 18 planning appeals.
A Caffé Nero spokesman said: “We are pleased the inspector accepted our argument that we have brought benefits to the High Street of Marlborough and are happy that we will be able to carry on serving our many customers in the town.”
Wiltshire councillor Richard Gamble said: “I am disappointed the inspector allowed the appeal as I believe Caffé Nero opened in contravention of adopted planning policy, which is that such a change of use should only be allowed if it ‘makes a positive contribution to the vitality and viability of the centre’.
“The inspector agreed that the applicant had failed to prove that it made such a contribution. Unfortunately, he also considered the policy was ‘somewhat at odds with the overall thrust’ of the National Planning Policy Framework in that it required too strict a test.
“Instead, he pointed out that no trader or body representing shopkeepers has come forward with any evidence of trade or activity having fallen off on the extremities of the High Street since Caffé Nero opened.”