Monday, 11 May 2009

Starbuck off - you're nicked!

Yesterday marked a dubious anniversary for St James's Street: a year since the controversial Starbucks coffee shop decided to defy planners and the wishes of local residents by opening its doors without planning permission.

There have been weekly demonstration outside the controversial store, come rain or shine, since then. Saturday's anniversary demo attracted about 70 or 80 people - on a rainy, wintry, day, this has sometimes fallen to just two or three.

But Saturday was a sunny spring day and the community seemed to come out in force: as well as two of us ward councillors (me and Rachel Fryer), we had Louis Louzou from the Sheltered Housing Action Group, several faces from the St James's Street Area Traders group and even Green Party leader and Euro-MP Caroline Lucas (pictured).

There was a singer (of sorts), a stall giving passers-by free hot drinks - and even some impromptu street theatre. It could have been a Brighton Festival event if it wasn't for the police presence (seven at one point!) and the slightly confrontational atmosphere.

Throughout the hour I was there - only four people entered Starbucks, and they were all wearing 'Abercrombie and Fitch' branded shirts. I don't know what that means, mebbe staff in their 'dress down' uniform?

At one point, two lads were arrested, given a warning and sent packing for yelling 'Fuck Starbucks'. I was reliably informed by the officers present that swearing in public is an offence under Section 5 of the Public Order Act - does your mind boggle? Apparently it all comes down to the possibility of accidentally offending passers-by.

I hope the June 10th planning inquiry acccepts that Starbucks is bad for local businesses, local residents - and local democracy - and can find a legal solution for that list of offences to all of us, whether we're passing by or not.

1 comment:

  1. Sorry Ben! I disagree with you on the Starbucks issue completely. I am a local resident living in Camelford Street and I support the Starbucks coffee shop for these reasons ...
    1. St James Street is a diverse retail centre and can easily support the existance of Starbucks. There is only one other committed coffee shop, Red Roaster, and Starbucks will not detract from its business.
    2. The Starbucks shop is attractive not just to locals but also to the many tourists and visitors to the City. This in turn will bring additional business into the St James centre.
    3. The old British Booksellers shop had degenerated and was not maintained over the years. Starbucks have renovated and redeveloped the shop sympathically and beautifully, particularly the roof and clock, returning the building to its former glory. This kind of refurbishment and community support should be encouraged. So many of the other buildings on St James are poorly maintained and look awful. Forcing the closure of the shop will not encourage new businesses to invest and will leave the Street with unused and boarded up properties.
    4. It may be the case that Starbucks began the redevelopment work at the site before A1/A3 usage had been approved by the Council but I understand from the Public Inquiry that the Council did not follow its own procedures in this matter. The Council indicated that A1/A3 usage would be granted retrospectivley, as it was for the Starbucks store in Hove. But the Council then changed thos decision. And the Council did not put the decision and review to the full Council Planning Committee as it should have. So the Council was in error. That said when I bought my home I had to get retropsective planning permission for alterations made by the previous owner ... why can't this be the case for Starbucks?
    5. I object to protesters outside of the immediate are coming into St James and disrupting the community, when the issue is being presented as a 'local' issue by Councillors and the Council. This is disingenuous.
    6. Protestors should represent themselves more honestly as being against the Starbucks company, as a coproration, rather than against the existance of a coffee shop. This representation is also disengenuous.

    I look forward to your comments! I would add that I am a Green supporter, I have voted for you and your colleagues in the past and I campaigned on the parties behalf during the last local elections. Having seen how the Greens operate on this issue I now think that I may stand against you myself!!