Coffee shop staff assured over jobs

OWNERS of a coffee bar today reassured staff they would not lose their jobs, and pledged to keep the venue open – despite losing a fight for planning permission.

By Richard Cornwell

OWNERS of a coffee bar today reassured staff they would not lose their jobs, and pledged to keep the venue open - despite losing a fight for planning permission.

Puccino's has been involved in a 20-month battle to stay at its premises in Hamilton Road, Felixstowe, after planners said the company had changed the use of its buildings without applying for consent.

When the firm belatedly applied to change the premises from a shop to a coffee bar, councillors refused.

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The company appealed against the decision - but a government inspector has now backed the council, dismissing the appeal, refusing permission and saying the coffee bar should close.

But today franchise owner Malcolm Catling told customers the coffee bar would not be closing and reassured the ten staff - six full-time and four part-time - that their jobs were safe.

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"We have a year and there are various options which we will be discussing with the enforcement officers at Suffolk Coastal council to see if we can find a solution to which they are agreeable," he said.

"We are hoping that we will be able to make some changes, not too drastic, in conjunction with the planning authority that will satisfy their requirements.

"Our customers have been great and very supportive and many of them cannot understand how it is that they want us to be here, the town council wants us, the government is encouraging our type of business, but the planning policy refuses us permission."

Coffee bar manager Glenn Turner said the aim was to persuade the council that the coffee bar element could stay if more deli sales were carried out.

Suffolk Coastal refused permission because it has a strict policy that shops between Boots and Bank Corner - Felixstowe's primary shopping area - cannot be changed to other uses.

It fears that allowing one change will set a precedent which will erode the number of stores and harm the economy of the town centre.

The government inspector backed the council fully and said its development plan policy for the town was clear, and felt larger shop units should not be lost.

Mr Catling said the coffee house was part of the mix of town centres. Being close to the shops, it was used by people to break up their shopping trips, or to mull over potential purchases, or for dads and children to relax while mum shopped for clothes, and helped to attract people into the town.

"When I decided to open a business in Felixstowe I could have done something on the seafront, but I wanted to do something for residents and that's the aim of being in Hamilton Road," he said.

n What do you think - is the council right to stick to its guns? What if other shops are lost to other uses? Write to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN, or e-mail

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