CONTROVERSIAL proposals by Costa to open a coffee shop in Dartmouth are being recommended for approval when they come before district councillors next week.
South Hams Council’s development management committee will meet on Wednesday to discuss the change of use plan in Victoria Road – and council officers are saying the scheme should be permitted subject to conditions, including noise mitigation measures, air-conditioning operation hours and access via the main entrance.
The application has sparked opposition for those unhappy over the potential impact on the diversity and vitality of the town centre with 87 letters of objection and a 1,554 petition.
There are also worries over litter, noise and disturbance, and Dartmouth Town Council has expressed concern over the unneighbourly aspect of the air-conditioning units close to Hanover Cottages at the rear.
But those backing backing the plan – with 80 letters of support – say 10 new jobs would be created and the coffee shop would provide a choice of retail options and not affect existing businesses.
The former Chocolate Destination and Ribbons and Bows shop has been vacant since March last year and is within the Dartmouth Conservation Area.
As well as seeking permission for a change of use of a vacant retail shop to a 34 seat coffee shop, Costa wants to make modifications to the shopfront and to install one air-conditioning unit on the side wall.
There is only a single toilet to serve both customers and staff which environmental health officers say falls short of standards, though there may be enough space around the area of the currently proposed toilet to fit in another small toilet compartment.
The environmental health section has also reviewed a noise impact assessment, revised elevations and plant arrangements and is satisfied the impact on the neighbours can be adequately controlled subject to the installation of additional ceiling insulation.
The proposed opening hours are 6.30am-8pm Monday to Saturday and 8am-6.30pm on Sundays and bank holidays which are considered acceptable to protect the amenity of adjacent neighbours.
A report to the meeting says: ‘The site is in the town centre where it is acceptable for retail uses to be able to open up at that time and the same would apply to the proposed cafe.
‘To further protect amenity, it is also recommend that a condition is attached to ensure no deliveries are be taken at or dispatched from the site outside the hours of 7am and 7pm.
‘It is recommended that a condition be attached to ensure that all deliveries take place though the main entrance and not via the rear of the shop to protect residential amenity from the operation of the cafe.
‘The site has formerly operated as a retail unit and it is reasonable to expect deliveries to shops within the town centre.’
In conclusion, planning officers say: ‘The vacant shop currently makes little contribution to the vitality and viability of the central shopping area and its reuse would have economic and social benefits for the town centre.
‘The proposed change of use from retail to coffee shop would not adversely impact the vitality and viability of the central shopping area nor would it undermine the shopping character of this part of the town centre.
‘Further, the proposal would not result in a significant loss of retail uses available in the town centre and a significant majority of shops in this part of the town centres would remain retail along with other uses.
‘Subject to securing appropriate conditions, including those to protect the amenity of neighbouring properties, the proposal is considered acceptable.’