Traders today slammed a decision by planners to grant permission for a 58th coffee outlet within a single mile in Morningside.
Costa Coffee, the world’s second largest coffee chain, has been granted permission by the city council for a change of use from what is currently a bathroom store at 14 Morningside Road, and will become the 58th outlet selling coffee in the area.
The 29-member Morningside Traders Association had strongly objected to the proposal, and hoped to see a stand taken against the retail chain, but today members described the decision as “inevitable”.
Duncan Cairns, of Toys Galore in Morningside Road and a member of Morningside Traders Association, said: “We had always thought it was perhaps too much to think that the council would support local traders.
“There’s always lots of talk about supporting small, independent traders but we very rarely see any of it. This application always had an air of inevitability, it seems we have no protection. This result is depressingly familiar.”
This view was echoed by local coffee shop owner Val Mcleod, of Cafe Blush in Morningside Road. She said: “It’s hardly surprising, we more or less knew this would happen. Numerous customers have already stated their concern about Morningside Road just turning into any other high street as the big boys squeeze out the small guys.
“I’m not too fearful, though, as we have a more personal approach, plus my cafe is gluten-free and that’s something Costa do not offer.”
Anne Williamson, who runs Houseproud of Morningside and is chair of the traders group, said it was the type of business rather than Costa itself they were objecting to. She said: “We’ve nothing against them as a business. The issue is the sheer number of places you can now buy coffee in Bruntsfield and Morningside.
“I personally have nothing against coffee shops but it’s all about balance. Imagine if we had 57 banks or building societies within a one-mile range on our high street.”
Green councillor and Lothians MSP Alison Johnstone is calling for a tightening of the rules on larger stores and supermarkets moving in alongside independent stores.
She said: “I asked the council to write to the government seeking a change in the law so that big chains can’t simply snap up independent shops without requiring planning permission. I’m pleased that the council has agreed to do so.
“If we want vibrant, successful high streets then we need an attractive mixture of shops. We need policies in place that encourage a mix, and we need more information on the cumulative impacts on local stores of ever more supermarkets and chain coffee shops. We may well have reached saturation point and we need to act quickly to tighten the rules.”