Let's Not be Bound by Chains!

Bishopston resident Richard Leonard is leading ‘The Let’s Not be Bound by Chains’ campaign and has kindly supplied the below article.

‘The Let’s Not be Bound by Chains’ campaign was triggered by the news that Costa Coffee have applied for planning permission to open at 14 Gloucester Road – that’s on The Promenade adjacent to three other cafes or cafe/bars – and would add to the 20+ (depends on who did the counting) other establishments on the Gloucester Road (excluding pubs) where you can stop for a coffee.  The many people who have signed the petition, either on-line or in local shops, clearly think that this is more than enough and they are right. What the Gloucester Road needs – more on some sections than others – is an increase in genuine retail businesses that would broaden the range of goods available to local people. We know that at least two local business people had made enquiries regarding the premises at 14 Gloucester Road – unfortunately too late – so yet another cafe is clearly not the only option for these premises.  If planning permission is not granted and the inevitable appeal by Costa is turned down then the options for genuine retail opportunities on this site are open once again.  Genuine retail opportunity is a carefully chosen expression.  The Costa application is for A1/A3 planning permission, this indicates a mixed use –  A1 permission covers retail and A3 is for cafes, restaurants etc. However the plans submitted by Costa show that the premises will have 80+ “covers” and only a small counter area at the front of the shop. It is clear from this that the main thrust of the business will be as a cafe with any “retail” purely as an add-on.

Is Costa Coffee a “chain” and is this necessarily bad for the Gloucester Road? Well, Costa are a subsidiary of Whitbread PLC, they have over 1100 establishments in the UK and a further 400 plus across 28 other countries.  That’s a considerable chain, something that Allegra – the publication of the coffee industry, referenced in the Costa planning application – has recognised.

No-one would claim that the Gloucester Road is perfect but it is far from being a “dump where people feel intimidated and frightened to shop”. This is how it was described by the Costa franchisee to a local trader and in the Evening Post. There are parts of Gloucester Road that would benefit from investment and a general tidying. But The Promenade section is not one of them, it is busy, varied, vibrant and well supported by local people.  “Chains” claim that they increase “footfall” and “dwell time” in an area and thus benefit other traders. I would suggest that it is the existing “footfall” and “dwell  time” that is attracting chains such as Costa to this part of the Gloucester Road.  There are numerous reports that outline the decline of independent traders when chains begin to dominate a shopping area. Because of corporate muscle they are able to play a long game and wait for a slow decline in independent trading to close rival businesses.  

We don’t want this future for the Gloucester Road.  The petition is still live in the shops and on-line so if you support the campaign please sign. We will be presenting the petition before the planning meeting on September 7th 2011.  You can send an objection to the planning application to the council by writing to, City Development, Brunel House, St George’s Road, Bristol or by email to development.management@bristol.gov.uk. Although the cut-off for objections is August 18 the Council will accept objections that are received after that date – though they will not be given as much weight.  Even so if you have missed the cut-off and want to object please do.

You can still can sign on-line at www.ipetitions.com/petition/unbound_by_chains

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