I thought this report from Private Eye was a timely reminder of why local councillors have consistently opposed the new Starbucks on St James's Street.
Starbucks, the world’s largest coffee chain, bought the premises of a former bookshop in Brighton’s kooky Kemptown last May and applied for change of use from retail to café despite loud opposition. The council threw the application out... but Starbucks opened regardless and is still open nine months later.
This is despite a petition signed by 2,500 residents and traders; a council enforcement notice requiring it to take out all tables and chairs; and a weekly protest from determined campaigners.
However, Starbucks has appealed against the original planning decision and the enforcement notice. A company spokeswoman insisted the new store “has helped its community by creating around 14 new jobs”.
Now Starbucks faces a public inquiry on 10 June, which could have wider implications for the company – which has a habit of opening shops without planning permission. Starbucks believes it has found a legal loophole, whereby if the status of a store is unclear under planning law, catering outlets can open in former retail premises without obtaining a change in classification.
The chain uses this loophole regularly, then appeals against planning decisions that don’t go its way at the last possible moment, thereby gaining six months’ trading grace until a hearing is held. With subsequent appeal hearings against council enforcement notices, the process drags on, leaving it free to trade for anything up to two years.