Customers battle to save coffee bar

MORE than 1,200 customers have signed a petition to try to save a coffee bar from being forced to close.Puccino's in Hamilton Road, Felixstowe, must shut its doors on March 10 unless an eleventh hour agreement can be reached with planners to keep it open.

MORE than 1,200 customers have signed a petition to try to save a coffee bar from being forced to close.

Puccino's in Hamilton Road, Felixstowe, must shut its doors on March 10 unless an eleventh hour agreement can be reached with planners to keep it open.

Owners of the premises have been involved in a two-and-a-half year battle after Suffolk Coastal council 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.

The company appealed against the decision - but a government inspector backed the council, dismissing the appeal, refusing permission and saying the coffee bar should close and gave it a year to find new premises.

It was hoped a compromise could be found which would allow the coffee bar to continue - such as making it sell more products so it could be classed as a shop - but now time is running out.

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A council spokesman said: "We are still in negotiations about the future and it is possible we could yet reach an acceptable solution before the compliance date set by the planning inspector of March 10.

"The basic facts are that 42-44 Hamilton Road has planning consent to be used as a shop, not a café, and in short, all of this saga could have been avoided by one phone call to our planning department before the shops were bought and converted.

"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."

A spokeswoman for the coffee bar said more than 1,200 people had signed its petition pleading for it to be allowed to stay.

"We have had fantastic support - people have very strong feelings," she said.

Franchise owner Malcolm Catling said: "The council are just doing their job but we are still in talks with them and considering a number of actions we could take, based on the discussions we have had with their officers."

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

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

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