Councillors in Horncastle have given a resounding ‘thumbs up’ to Costa Coffee opening a new outlet in the town.
Members of the Town Council’s Planning Committee met on Monday night and voted unanimously to support Costa’s application for permission to change the use of the Achurch and Son hardware store in the Market Place.
It is the first step towards Costa opening a 95-seater coffee house, although a final decision will rest with planners at East Lindsey District Council.
At Monday’s meeting, councillors said they were aware the application had attracted hundreds of comments on social media.
They also noted owners of existing coffee houses and cafes in Horncastle had raised concerns about the arrival of the retail giants.
However, committee chairman Coun Brian Burbidge stressed the impact of competition and any potential loss of trade were not ‘material grounds’ to object.
Coun David Snell said one area of reference was Horncastle’s Neighbourhood Development plan, which included a clause stating everything should be done to support applications for ‘Class A1’ ranked retail outlets in prime areas like the Market Place.
Coun Snell explained the Costa application was for change of use to an ‘A3’ class facility.
However, he said he supported the application because it would bring a ‘significant economic benefit’ to the town.
Coun Snell added: “Reading all the comments on social media, there is obviously a certain generation who would welcome a Costa.
“I think we have got to support this.”
Coun Snell was backed by Coun Fiona Martin and Coun Rose Williams, although the former did stress not everyone in Horncastle was in favour of Costa.
However, she said support did appear to outweigh any opposition.
Coun Burbidge said there were no obvious reasons for the council to object, and he welcomed the fact a major retailer wanted to open in Horncastle.
He stressed Costa’s plans did not alter the actual appearance of the premises.
Councillors also voted to support plans for two non-illuminated signs on the outside of the building.
The applicant is a London-based company Cuppacoff Ltd.
Costa have so far declined to comment on the application.
Ed Giffen, owner of The Old Stables, was among several members of the public who attended Monday’s meeting.
Mr Giffen has previously indicated rival businesses were ready to meet the challenge of Costa and all offered something different to the national chain.
He did draw councillor’s attention to Costa’s plans to remove waste from the rear of the building.
He suggested two ‘wheelie bins’ were not sufficient and also said there was an issue that the bins might block access
to nearby buildings.
Councillors said they would note his comments in their letter to ELDC and they also urged him to post any comments on the authority’s planning portal.
It is not certain when ELDC will make a final decision although sources suggest the application will not go before a planning committee and that could speed up the process.