Better latte than never!

PUBLISHED: 12:40 20 July 2006 | UPDATED: 11:53 04 May 2010

The new Costa in Ely

The new Costa in Ely

COSTA opened a new store in Ely on Monday - but the coffee giant has been warned it may face closure unless an important planning issue is resolved. The chain, owned by Whitbread, opened an Ely branch after a swift re-fit that saw ladies clothes store

COSTA opened a new store in Ely on Monday - but the coffee giant has been warned it may face closure unless an important planning issue is resolved.

The chain, owned by Whitbread, opened an Ely branch after a swift re-fit that saw ladies' clothes store QS converted into a coffee shop.

But planning officers at East Cambridgeshire District Council have said Costa did not make the appropriate change of use application to the district council - an application that is required because food will be served on the premises.

Trevor Eagle at the council's planning department said: "Our opinion is that a change of use is required and we've contacted Costa, advising them that they are operating in breach of planning law.

"We have invited a retrospective application."

He said if the organisation does not make the application then officers would need to consider whether the change of use is 'inappropriate'.

"If it is," he said, "then we could compel them to cease trading."

Planning officers will also consider what the outcome would have been if the proper application had been made. If it is decided that that the application would have been approved, then the council will not take action.

The Ely Traders' Association, which represents independently-owned shops in the city, has commended the district council for monitoring the situation, but its chairman, Elaine Griffin-Singh said she is concerned that "corporate muscle" allows chain outlets to "get their own way" in small towns.

"What is good for the goose should be good for the gander," she said.

"We feel that chains have clout and resources that independent traders cannot compete with - only a chain could carry out that kind of re-fit without the appropriate planning permission."

The arrival of Costa has also inflamed the long-standing issue of the county council decision to strip city traders of their 'A' board advertising earlier this year.

"The county council came down very hard on small shops, loading one of independent traders' only means of advertising into a truck to be taken to landfill - yet Costa is allowed to promote its business with the same 'A' boards.

"I would hope the council takes the same action with Costa that was taken with small businesses."

A spokesman for Costa said: "The council has requested further information about our planning agreement, which we have provided.

"If additional action to our existing planning agreement is required, we will take the appropriate action.

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