THE managing director of a Costa coffee franchise says the chain will boost the economy of a town rather than harm it.
The comments from Robin Arkle come as more than 900 people signed a petition against plans to open a Costa branch in the now-empty former Barclays bank building in High Street, Emsworth.
We are creating jobs and adding to the local economyRobin Arkle
Mr Arkle is the boss of Premier Coffee, the franchise which runs Costas stretching from Southampton to Littlehampton.
He says he has created more than 500 jobs in 12 years and will create another 10 in Emsworth.
‘There has been some opposition, equally there has been much support,’ said Mr Arkle.
‘Historically when we come to towns like Emsworth we bring more people into the area, who subsequently spend their money in other local shops, restaurants and cafes. We are creating jobs and adding to the local economy.
‘Emsworth already has national brands in the town such as Co-Op, Lloyds Pharmacy and banks. We firmly believe in customers having a choice.
‘We do not believe we will be endangering any other local businesses.’
But Alistair Gibson, who is leading the campaign against Costa, said he was not convinced by Mr Arkle’s claims.
‘Firstly, we do not have “banks” in Emsworth any more,’ said Mr Gibson.
‘That is half the problem. And it is the Southern Co-operative – the local company – who do a lot for the community. They sell local produce, will be donating £15,000 to local good causes this year, and have a permanent food bank in the shop. They are not a typical national chain.’
Mr Gibson said he was delighted so many people had signed the petition and added: ‘It clearly shows the strength of feeling from the people of Emsworthwho are very proud of their town.’
The Barclays bank building became empty just over a year ago.
Some people are in favour of Costa bringing the building back to life in an otherwise vibrant high street.
But Emsworth Business Association, Emsworth Residents’ Association and Emsworth Forum are united in their opposition.
An application by Costa to change the use of the building from a bank to a cafe will go before Havant Borough Council’s planning committee on February 4.
Representations must be made to the council by Friday.
The petition can be found at http://chn.ge/1TH4Kox