Wednesday, 23 April 2008

St James's Street under multinational attack...

St James's Street has come under attack from multinational big business again as Starbucks plan to open a new branch on the site of the former Sussex Stationers shop. This is little short of a disaster for local residents, shoppers and traders.

Why? Well there are at least four good reasons:

1. St James's Street doesn't need another coffee shop - it's got 12 already!
2. Money spent at a multinational chain store leaves the area immediately, money spent at a local independent retailer is of much greater benefit to the local economy.
3. Starbucks stores have been widely reported as aggressively driving rents up and prices down until independent retailers are forced to the wall, then putting prices back up again. This represents an unwelcome attack on our thriving local business sector.
4. People come to Kemp Town and St James's Street for its unique charm and independent retail atmosphere. The more chain stores that move in the less likely people are to come to Kemp Town in the first place.

It's not quite a done deal yet though: Starbucks do have to get council planners' permission to change the site's use from a shop to a restaurant. Starbucks don't seem to think that matters (well they are hardly going to let a little impediment like local decision-making stand in the way of a good old-fashioned world domination plan, are they) - they've already started work (pictured) even though their application isn't even going to be considered until next month.

The good news is that opening another coffee shop on St James's Street shouldn't be allowed. It would run counter to local planning guidelines, which say there should be a clear predominance of non-food stores, and that no new large eateries should back on to homes or be built within 400m of another. I counted 22 so-called 'A3' premises (coffee shops, restaurants) in St James's St in 10 minutes today - and I didn't count any of the side-streets.

The bad news is that the local planing guidance doesn't always prevail. To make sure it does in this case we need as many people as possible to object to the proposal, before the deadline of May 7. I have written to the planning department making my objections plain: if you want to add your voice of disapproval you can do so on the council's website, here, clicking on 'I accept' and then typing in the application number - in this case there are two: BH2008/01039 and BH2008/00953. If enough of us do we might just see off the latest attempt to bring Clone Town Britain to Kemp Town.

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