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Town with a coffee shop every 36 yards will get its 15th café

A coastal town is in uproar today after it was revealed yet another coffee shop will open this year - the 15th along its 550-yard high street. 

Christchurch in Dorset is overflowing with cafes with shoppers able to pop into one for a hot drink approximately every 36 yards.

Last year local councillors refused permission for a Coffee#1 branch to move in arguing it would break its rule of having no more than 30 per cent of shops as food and drink outlets.   

But bosses of the chain have appealed and won their case, after it was ruled it would be unfair to stop the proposed branch.

Inspector Sophie Edwards agreed with Coffee#1 that filling the former Shoe Zone store, which had been abandoned since 2017, is more 'beneficial' to the town and its other shops than keeping it empty. 

These are the 15 coffee shops in Christchurch along its 550-yard high street, which has outraged locals who say there are already far too many

The local council wanted the 15th coffee shop in the town (pictured) stopped but the national planning inspector overturned its decision 

How did Christchurch's 15TH coffee shop beat planning rules?

Councillors in Christchurch had refused the application for Coffee#1 to open in an empty shop.

But bosses of the growing national cafe chain managed to overturn their decision on appeal.

An inspector overruled the decision not to let them take over the empty former Shoe Zone store in Christchurch, Dorset.

Councillors rejected the scheme last year as they felt the balance of food outlets to retail outlets would tip too far.

Cafes are classed as 'non-retail' stores in local policy documents - and it was argued that this would breach the 30% non-retail limit in Christchurch.

But Coffee#1 successfully argued that the Shoe Zone had been empty for a considerable amount of time and despite 'an extensive marketing exercise' nobody had taken the grade II listed building on. 

Inspector Sophie Edwards' report said: 'I accept that the council is seeking to preserve the retail function of Christchurch Town Centre and is concerned with the proliferation of non-retail uses within this area.

'However, rather than adversely affecting the vitality and viability of Christchurch Town Centre, the proposed use would complement the offer in this area and attract footfall for longer periods of the day and evening, which in turn would be beneficial to existing retailers.'

The ruling has caused fury among shoppers and local businesses who say that the explosion of coffee houses has got to stop, comparing it to the plethora of charity shops that also dominate high streets across the country.

Christchurch resident Judith Lewis, 78, said there are already too many coffee shops in the town and said: 'There are far too many coffee shops and cafes and it is terrible actually.

'We used to have lots of independent retail shops here but for some reason they've all gone now.

'Don't get me wrong, it's nice to go out and get a coffee but there are far too many and it's gone beyond healthy competition now.' 

Fellow local Jackie Elleby, 70, said: 'Coffee shops and charity shops - that's all you seem to get now.

'I've lived in the area for over 30 years and it is definitely noticeable the decline of the high street in Christchurch.

'There needs to be more variety because when I first came here we had everything you could want but now they're just catering for the holiday-makers which is a real shame.'

Rose Kelly, owner of the long-establish cafe Kelly's Kitchen, said the loss of retail stores and rise in coffee shops had impacted on her business.

She said: 'We have been in the town for 26 years and it used to be really busy before there was this influx about five or six years ago.

'We didn't have as many coffee shops and the high street was definitely much more vibrant.

'We used to have a lot of retail shops here and there were more shops for people to go in and look around.

'Now we don't have that - it's just coffee shops and charity shops. We've lost a lot of our afternoon trade since this started happening because there are just too many and not enough business to go around.' 

Mike Ismail, who owns coffee house Baggies, described the situation as 'ridiculous'.

Sandwich shop owner Mike Ismail says that the number of coffee shops - especially from larger national chains - is getting 'ridiculous'

He said the decision could see his business go under within a year and believes the government should be doing more to help independent businesses.

He said: 'We're obviously very, very disappointed with the decision and some smaller coffee shops will now be under threat, including my own.

'I've been here seven years but if they take even five per cent of my customers I could be forced to cut my staff right back.

'If it's just me working here I could close down within a year. It's a ridiculous situation for us all.

'Christchurch has a population of 80 per cent pensioners and how anyone actually expects them to drink that much coffee is crazy.'

He added: 'The government does not care about independent businesses like mine and do nothing to help us.

'My customers say they are sad about what's going on. People want some variety on the high street not yet another coffee shop.'

Coffee#1 originally submitted a planning application last November but it was refused by local councillors.

They said it went against their policy of having no more than 30 per cent of food and drink outlets in the main shopping area.

The chain immediately confirmed they would appeal the ruling and the decision has now been successfully overturned.

A government-appointed planning inspector agreed that the new shop would 'attract footfall for longer periods of the day and evening'.

Inspector Sophie Edwards' report also dismissed concerns regarding competition between traders.

The report said: 'I accept that the council is seeking to preserve the retail function of Christchurch town centre and is concerned with the proliferation of non-retail uses within this area.

'However, rather than adversely affecting the vitality and viability of the town centre, the proposed use would complement the offer in this area and attract footfall for longer periods of the day and evening, which in turn would be beneficial to existing retailers.

'Concerns have been raised by third parties regarding the competition which would occur as a result of the proposal.

'However this is not a planing consideration.'

Elliot Jones, planning agent for Coffee#1, said: 'We know the local plan position - that said the proposal would lead only to a slight increase.

'To rigidly apply the threshold limit would not accurately reflect market conditions.

'We have a long standing track record of restoring listed buildings.'

Coffee#1 launched in 2001 and operate a number of stores across the UK. Their Christchurch branch will open its doors later this year. 

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