VOTE: Coffee shop plans leave a sour taste in mouth for Midhurst traders

Plans for another coffee shop in Midhurst’s North Street have stirred up strong protests from cafe owners already in business in the town.

Costa Coffee is widely believed to be the high-street name behind the application for a change of use of the popular Unusual Food Company at the top of North Street.

But cafe owners throughout Midhurst say there are already too many businesses selling coffee and they do not want to lose a retail outlet which brings shoppers to Midhurst.

Mary Geist, joint owner of Ye Olde Tea Shoppe in North Street, said if went ahead the plan it could spell the end for other businesses in the town: “There are far too many restaurants, pubs, hotels, cafes and other eateries in Midhurst and quite honestly if the council grant change of use for this, one or two of us could go down the pan.”

She added: “We are struggling to pay our rates now. With the recession and the weather, this winter has been exceedingly difficult.”

Doreen Zone said she and her husband Enrico had run Rico’s Cafe for the past 27 years: “I am pretty disgusted with this new application,” she said. “We certainly don’t want to turn Midhurst into Chichester High Street with all its chain shops. I always understood the planners wanted to keep Midhurst a nice country town and I don’t think they are doing that.”

Peter Davies, owner of Caffe Verdi at the top of North Street, said he believed Chichester District Council would not allow any more cafes in the street after giving him permission for a change of use from a hairdressers in 2007.

“Allowing a large national coffee chain to take away retail space in North Street would be highly detrimental to the shopping environment,” he said.

“Next to Tesco, it is the biggest retail space in that part of Midhurst and I don’t want to lose it. Competition is fine. If Costa want to come in and take over an existing A3 premises, I don’t think anyone would have an issue with it, but taking away retail space is different.”

At Comestibles in Red Lion Street, Brendon Davies agreed the loss of retail space was sad.

“I am surprised they think it’s viable to come here,” he added. “I think we have enough coffee and tea shops here already.

And at Garston’s cafe in Market Square, manageress Jan Boxall said apart from all the cafes competing for business there were also many pubs, hotels and restaurants: “We haven’t enough people coming into the town to warrant a Costa Coffee shop, what we want is more retail shops.”

A spokesman for Costa Coffee said: “We are aware of a retail unit in Midhurst and we’re currently evaluating this opportunity.

“While Costa is a coffee chain, being part of the communities we operate in is important to us. Costa stores are encouraged to get involved with community projects where they can.

“Other examples of Costa entering towns have revealed we actually complement independent retailers. The opening of a Costa Coffee shop often draws increased footfall, re-energising and revitalizing areas, bringing substantial benefits to surrounding businesses.”