Trouble brewing as coffee giant bids for Midhurst site

National coffee giant Costa is being given a roasting over its latest plans to open a cafe in the centre of Midhurst.

Unprecedented numbers of protesters have written to Chichester District Council (CDC) calling on councillors to throw out Costa’s amended plans to change the use of the popular Unusual Food Company store in North Street.

Nearly 100 letters of objection appeared on the district council website and many more objectors have signed petitions.

Peter Davies, owner of Caffe Verdi just across the road from the proposed new Costa Coffee shop in North Street, has always claimed allowing a large national coffee chain to take away retail space in North Street would be “highly detrimental” to the shopping environment.

Now he has hit out at Midhurst town councillors and the district council’s economic development officers for changing their minds over the Costa application.

They both objected to the previous application which was thrown out by members of CDC’s north area development control committee in January.

Although Costa was not then named, it was widely believed to be the company behind the plan.

“I am disappointed they have done a U-turn when there is nothing different about the amended application. Nothing has changed in the square metreage or the design. If it was wrong last year, it is wrong now,” he told the Observer.

He believed it was possible the answer lay in finance: “It is not inconceivable the financial implications of an appeal in these times of austerity may be influencing their decision making.”

Commenting on the amended plan CDC’s economic development service officers said: “In our previous comments the service acknowledged the fact coffee shops including national chains do support the economy of local towns.

“We therefore do not dispute the information provided by the applicant regarding the role of coffee shops on the high street and the positive impact they can have on shopping centres.”

Costa is appealing against refusal of planning permission last year and in the mean time has submitted the second application to CDC.

Costa’s agent Savills said: “This offers the council the opportunity to reassess the application in the light of additional information and avoid the unnecessary costs incurred for both parties in respect of a planning appeal.”