Students at Marlborough College have admonished Councillor Margaret Rose, chairman of Marlborough Council’s planning committee, for the council’s bid to close the town’s new Caffe Nero because it has opened without planning consent.
There were cries of dismay when she told fellow councillors last night (Monday): “ I was admonished by someone saying it was the best coffee in the town.”
“And they were telling me that there is already a rumour going around saying Caffe Nero is closing — and the staff are going to be made redundant. I said I haven’t heard that yet.”
Mrs Rose, who is employed at Marlborough College, added: “I said that if Caffe Nero had applied for planning down the proper route then they would not be facing the aggro now.”
She congratulated members of the Planning Committee who had attended the Wiltshire planning meeting last Thursday when three of the councillors changed their mind on whether to support retrospective planning consent for Caffe Nero and its application was defeated by seven votes to one.
And overall the town council has received praise and support for its stand against Caffe Nero, which has ignored planning regulations in towns across the country and then won consent by appeal months after they have been trading without holding any permission to operate.
Paul Shimell, president of Marlborough’s Chamber of Commerce, gave a delighted response to Wiltshire’s rejection decision.
“That’s terrific, the council’s first positive in the right direction,” he told Marlborough News Online.
“No business fears open competition but when companies like Caffe Nero cynically abuse the planning system to give them an unfair advantage then it has to be stopped.”
“What they do may not be a criminal offence but it is a deliberate and so far successful way of operating that makes them unwelcome by others in our High Streets.”
“If planning inspectors continue to allow such future action, then we have to take up the challenge by way of a test case in the High Court or by way of judicial review. Alternatively, we must ask our MPs to change the law.”
And he added: “Communities in our market towns need to take it all the way and ensure that the planning system works on a transparent and fair basis for all concerned.”
Sir John Sykes, chairman of the trustees of Marlborough’s Merchant’s House, who was a campaigner in the failed bid to prevent the loss of the Ivy House Hotel, joined in.
“This is excellent news,” he told Marlborough News Online.
“Certainly the decision by the planning committee has come as a complete surprise since I was firmly under the impression that the Wiltshire Council, in common with many other councils, was very reluctant to turn down a retrospective planning application of this nature being fearful of the costs involved should the applicant appeal their decision.”
“It seems that Caffe Nero, like many other multiples, has tried to take advantage of this. Now a stand has been made which I hope will be a shot across their bows and make them — and any other multiple thinking of following their lead — think twice before marching in to a small town like Marlborough and raising two fingers to the planning authority and to the local community.”
And there was backing too from local activist Val Compton, who is seeking co-option to the town council – see our letters page Thank you Councillor Gamble.
“To think that anyone may actually make a special trip to Marlborough for the purpose of drinking coffee in Caffé Nero, then incidentally go shopping whilst here, is slightly ludicrous,” pointed out Mrs Compton.
“If we are to keep Marlborough’s economy buoyant, we need an all out effort to support our independent businesses in particular. I’m aware some of the chains actually consider and positively contribute to the local community.”
“However, the point was made that it is the very individuality of our shops in Marlborough that promotes choice and protects our uniqueness, thus attracting a wide range of shoppers, tourists and visitors.”
The town council has yet to see the terms of Wiltshire Council’s enforcement notice being served on Caffe Nero and is expected to call a special meeting next month to consider its plan of action prior to an appeal being held.