A proposal to open a Costa Coffee shop in Melksham has raised concerns amongst traders in the town.
A planning application has been received by Wiltshire Council which would see the former Clinton Cards and Fotostop stores on the High Street converted into a coffee shop selling hot drinks and cold food, with seating for more than 50 patrons.
It was lodged by South West Coffee, a Costa franchise-holder which runs six stores around Bristol.
Melksham has six independently-owned cafes in the town centre, including the Rotary Club’s volunteer-run Art House Cafe, and many of their owners have expressed alarm over the proposal.
Trevor Brine runs Ashers Cafe, which has stood on the High Street for 56 years. He said: “We want something new in the town to open it up, but not another coffee shop. I just think it’s the wrong place for it.
“Costa are massive, they have got all the service stations and the supermarkets, we don’t need them in the town.
“We need some big name shops to attract people into town, like BHS or a men’s clothing outlet.”
Jamie Nicholls, who owns the Old Bakery Coffee Shop, said: “I’ve known about it for a couple of weeks and the other shops aren’t happy. It’s going to affect us greatly.
“We need to get together and do something about it – we were looking at going along to the council planning meeting in March, to voice our disapproval.”
In an online submission to the Wiltshire Council website, Stuart Montgomery, director of South West Coffee, said: “My wife Lynn and I are investing £250,000 of our own money into transforming these two empty shops that no one else wants into a coffee shop.
“The shop will create five to 10 local jobs, some of which I intend to fill from my role as member of the local leaders’ group in the Prince’s Trust, which helps change lives by creating jobs and training opportunities for young people who have not had such an opportunity before.
“Our experience of our other Costa Coffee shops is that they become an important hub for the community where people of all ages can meet, chat, drink coffee and rest and then browse and spend money in other nearby shops. We have a regular clientele made up of all walks of society.”
Graham Ellis, president of the Melksham Chamber of Commerce, said the chamber supported the application. “We welcome new businesses into the town, especially when they’re going to occupy a prime location in the town centre and encourage people to come and stop there,” he said.
The application will be discussed by Melksham Town Council’s planning committee on March 4.