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Town councillors make last ditch bid to halt late planning go ahead for Caffe Nero

A last ditch attempt to stop Caffe Nero being given retrospective planning consent for its latest coffee shop in Marlborough High Street is to be made by town councillors on Thursday.

That’s when Wiltshire Council’s eastern area planning committee is being recommended to give the multi-national company the go-ahead despite objections from Marlborough town council, the Chamber of Commerce and some 60 retailers and individuals.

Eight or more town councillors plan to attend the meeting at Browfort, Devizes, at which former mayor Nick Fogg, one of Marlborough’s two Wiltshire councillors, will raise planning issues that may at least delay a fatal final decision being made.

“This is a vital matter not only for Marlborough but all market towns and shopping centres,” he told Marlborough News Online.  “What we need is a change in legislation to stop new businesses being opened ahead of planning permission being considered, let alone granted when a change of use is involved.”

Other councillors intend to speak out against the report of planning officer Peter Horton which claims that Wiltshire has no alternative but to grant consent in the wake of planning inquiry decision in Skipton, Yorkshire, earlier this month.

Caffe Nero were criticised there for their “calculated” decision to open in the town centre in the face of an enforcement notice but knowing that, as in other instances, it would survive opposition unless actual economic harm could be proved against them.

“This is an extremely important test case,” protested Marlborough councillor Richard Pitts.  “If this application goes through on Thursday there will be no need for anyone to apply for planning permission for anything in Marlborough.”

“They can just do it and once their business open apply for planning later knowing that Wiltshire Council will just roll over, especially when they are faced with a multi-national company willing to fight the case and go to court.”

“Sod democracy, sod the will of the people and what the community wants, just let big business roll into our market towns and make them all clones of some marketing ideal.”

“Caffe Nero have similar applications pending in Devizes and Chippenham.  So they too will become clones while Caffe Nero shows no respect for the legislation because they know they are not actually breaking the law.”

Tory town councillor Noel Barrett-Morton is equally opposed although he will not be at Thursday’s committee meeting.

“I feel strongly about this arrogant company who think they can ride roughshod over the planning laws,” he said.

His colleague, Councillor Margaret Rose, who chairs the town council’s planning committee, has also joined the protest and wants to speak at Thursday’s meeting.

So too Marlborough activist Val Compton, who is seeking to be co-opted on to the town council and had hoped that enough objectors would come forward to fill a 50-seater coach to attend the meeting.

“It is totally senseless that the law says you have to go through the proper planning process to open a new business but if you don’t bother to do so you can seek permission retrospectively – and that’s not breaking the law.”

“We need a change in the legislation that ensures that companies are made to pay a big penalty if they persistently behave in this way -- on the calculated risk they will get away with it, sometimes local councils won’t go to law because of the cost.”

“What is going on at the moment is quite crazy and makes no sense whatsoever.”

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