Coffee bar closes after planning row

DESPITE protests from more than 2,000 customers, a popular coffee bar has today been forced to close – after opening without permission.Franchise owner Malcolm Catling spoke of his sadness at leaving Felixstowe following a two-and-a-half year battle to keep his town centre deli bar open.

DESPITE protests from more than 2,000 customers, a popular coffee bar has today been forced to close - after opening without permission.

Franchise owner Malcolm Catling spoke of his sadness at leaving Felixstowe following a two-and-a-half year battle to keep his town centre deli bar open.

Suffolk Coastal council decided to take enforcement action against the Puccino's in Hamilton Road because it was operating without planning consent in an area reserved for shops only and not coffee shops or restaurants.

Mr Catling said: "Although there has been a lengthy appeal process, all appeals were turned down and Suffolk Coastal has decided to enforce its planning policy.

"I have, therefore, been forced to close my business down as a result.

"I am sorry to be leaving Felixstowe. I have enjoyed serving the lovely people of this town and its visitors.

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"I still believe Felixstowe wants and deserves this kind of modern café bar centrally here in Hamilton Road - like so many other towns already have - but Suffolk Coastal doesn't seem to think so."

He thanked customers for their support, and also the town council and county councillor David Rowe, who got involved in the campaign to save Puccino's.

Mr Rowe said: "I went into town at the weekend and it was sad to see Puccino's closed; many people who regularly used it were puzzled as to why such a successful business had to close.

"Groups of people and families with young children were standing outside, reading the notice, and then going home.

"The shop now stands empty in the middle of the town centre. A vibrant town centre needs all types of shops and also cafes and coffee shops for people to relax in. Suffolk Coastal obviously disagree.

"This is madness and the policy is years out of date. When will the council come into the 21st century? Policies should reflect public opinion and what is best for the town. This policy clearly doesn't, and should be changed."

The council said the premises had consent to be used as a shop, not a café, and the saga could have been avoided by one phone call to the planning department before it was bought and converted.

A spokesman said: "At that stage they would have been advised planning permission would be needed, and that there was a planning policy that did not permit non-retail units.

"This would normally have been enough for an agent to recognise that an alternative site would have to be found."

The council has a strict policy shops between Boots and Bank Corner - Felixstowe's primary shopping area - cannot be changed to other uses.

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