AN award-winning high street trying to fight off moves to open a Costa coffee shop is now taking on another high street chain.
Bookmaker Coral is eyeing up an empty building adjoining the former Barclays bank, in High Street, Emsworth.
Emsworth Business Association, Emsworth Residents’ Association and Emsworth Forum are being backed by residents who feel the national chains are inappropriate for a picturesque town with a vibrant, independent high street.
But a spokesman for Coral said the claim was ‘offensive’.
An online petition appealing to the Costa chief executive to reconsider the move to Emsworth has garnered almost 1,000 signatures.
Alistair Gibson is leading the campaign. He said: ‘We’ve gone from one high street chain to suddenly potentially having two move in. It seems to me that this could be the thin end of the wedge. Is this a place for a Coral’s bookmaker? I don’t think so.
‘I certainly don’t know anyone who wants it. There was a small family-run bookmaker in North Street, but that closed about three months ago.
‘I don’t have anything against gambling, perhaps on the periphery of a town. But not in the middle of historic Emsworth.’
The planning committee at Havant Borough Council will decide on February 4 whether Costa can change the use of the former Barclays bank building.
Mr Gibson is hoping Costa may rethink its plans, given the strength of feeling in the town.
But Robin Arkle, the managing director of Premier Coffee, which owns the Costa franchise for this area, said that far from damaging the town’s vitality and independence it will add to it – creating at least 10 new jobs.
In a statement Coral said its store should be open by September.
‘We take our responsibility to the local communities in which our shops operate extremely seriously.
‘We want to attract a wide spectrum of customers to our stores, and we can only do this by offering them a safe and responsible leisure experience.
‘That is why significant resources are invested into responsible gambling procedures and the training of staff, and to suggest a betting shop would be out of place on Emsworth high street is quite frankly offensive to our hard-working shop colleagues and our many customers.’
The Costa petition can be found at chn.ge/1TH4Kox.