Caffe Nero is “running rings around” the planners – and me too – admits Nick Fogg
Caffe Nero is “running rings around” Wiltshire Council in its fight for planning consent to approve its latest bid to open not one but three new coffee shops in the county.
“I have to say that is what they are doing – and I am one of those they are running rings around,” Councillor Nick Fogg told Marlborough News Online today (Thursday). “I take my share of responsibility for that.”
He is seeking urgent answers to questions to a survey Caffe Nero has commissioned on the “usage levels” of their new coffee shop, opened in Marlborough High Street in March before they applied for planning consent.
And on the economic health too of Marlborough High Street as a shopping centre, an area which has some 20 establishments offering food, who claim they have been badly hit by the arrival of Caffe Nero.
The company is now proposing to open coffee shops in Devizes and in Chippenham, where opposition is mounting to their arrival, as was the case in Marlborough, more than 60 people and the town council objecting vociferously to the new Caffe Nero establisment.
Mr Fogg, who is both a Wiltshire councillor for Marlborough and a member of the town council, called in Caffe Nero’s application for change of use of the former Dash fashion store, which meant it should have been decided at a meeting of Wiltshire’s east area planning committee.
But all that has resulted is delay with planning officer Peter Horton informing Marlborough News Online: “Caffe Nero have commissioned a survey of both usage levels of their Marlborough café and of the health of Marlborough High Street.”
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Paul Shimell, president of Marlborough Chamber of Commerce, has joined the mounting criticism over the Caffe Nero planning application.
He told Marlborough News Online: “The delay, the lack of information to the public in general and the confusion over planning responsibilities is becoming a seriously worrying feature of the way Wiltshire Council is failing us.
“Is it any wonder that Caffe Nero has replied to all objectors that their way of opening a coffee shop and applying for planning consent later works wonders – and that they have been successful in all the appeals they have faced against their actions.
“What is also quite astonishing is that Wiltshire Council is willing to accept the results of a survey commissioned by Caffe Nero without question. It inevitably undermines the authority of the whole planning process, a totally independent survey commissioned by the council being the only logical way to act.”
“The information should be with us by early next week. We have taken the decision to delay taking the application to committee until this information is available.”
“If ever the application went to appeal, Caffe Nero would be commissioning this type of work anyway, so we took a decision to accept their offer to provide it up front.”
“The earliest possible committee is July 19, but this is dependent on Caffe Nero getting the survey work to us in good time.”
But Nick Fogg told Marlborough News Online: “My own feeling is that if such a survey was to be conducted it should have been done before Caffe Nero went ahead and opened in Marlborough High Street.”
“If they wanted to do a survey, which is obviously quite interesting to see, but they have gone ahead and opened without planning permission in the first place.”
“And now they are delaying the process of going through the planning process which is not right.”
He added: “Such a survey should in any case be independently commissioned. If Caffe Nero chose to commission one and pay for it then we must wait to see the details before deciding its worth.”
“I would like to see the terms of the survey to start with. They should be laid out for everyone to see. We need to find out the whole point of it.”
“At the moment all we hear is that they are conducting a survey.”
While he supports Charles Howard, chairman of the East area planning committee, he pointed out: “Caffe Nero are very experienced at the art of obfuscation.”