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Coffee chain eyes up old music shop
COFFEE chain Costa is planning to take over a former music store in the centre of Wallingford.
If Costa Coffee gets the go-ahead to convert the old Astley’s music store in Market Place into a coffee shop, it will be the first national coffee chain to open a store in the town.
Many shoppers were disappointed when Gareth Astley decided to close the family business earlier this year due to falling sales, after more than 30 years of trading.
Now, Costa’s planning application to South Oxfordshire District Council is prompting a debate about chain stores versus independent traders in a town that prides itself on having a large number of independent shops.
The coffee chain is applying to SODC to change the use of the premises and set up outdoor seating. Ashley Kempson, who runs KP Stationers in Market Place, said: “A lot of people know about this and are talking about it.
“I think Costa is a very well-known chain and they do what they do exceptionally well. I have an independent Costa machine in my shop and people use it for takeaways.
“This is a major chain investing in a small market town and hopefully that could prompt other national chains to consider Wallingford.”
Costa Coffee has applied for listed building consent to make alterations inside the former music store on the ground floor and on the first floor so that it can fit in enough tables to make the business viable.
According to the application, the opening up of existing fireplaces will improve the character of the building and the use of the first floor by the public will also provide a greater heritage asset for the community.
Town councillor Lynda Atkins said: “I am against it.
“I think we have several very good local coffee shops like the Old Post Office and Bloc Brazilian.
“Costa also wants to put chairs and tables outside where the pavement is not very wide.
“I suppose it’s a compliment to Wallingford that Costa wants to come here but I would rather it didn’t.”
Elaine Hornsby, spokesman for traders’ group Wallingford in Business, said she did not know what the majority of traders thought about the planning application.
She added: “Personally I don’t think the town needs a Costa Coffee because there are so many independent coffee shops in the town already, and I think they will struggle to put chairs outside because there is so much going on in the market place.”
David Jones, the manager of Bloc Brazilian, was unavailable for comment.
Astley’s closed in February after 36 years saying it could not compete with online retailers and major chain stores.
Anyone who wants to comment on the Costa plan should contact SODC by December 21.
No one from Costa Coffee was available for comment.