The Tart and the Pudding come together as Bakewell opposes Costa Coffee plans
One of Derbyshire's longest running food rivalries has been put aside as shop owners and residents in Bakewell attempt to fight off an 'invasion' by Britain's largest cafe chain, Costa.
Zoe McBurnie, owner of The Bakewell Tart Shop and Coffee House and Jemma Beagrie, owner of The Old Original Bakewell Pudding Shop are two of the town's business owners who are fighting against Costa Coffee opening a new 80 seater café in the former Bennett's Shop on King Street and the decades old argument over whether Bakewell should be famous for its Tarts or Pudding's forgotten for the moment.
The ladies are just two of the local business owners protesting in a campaign which has already picked up around 2,000 signatures of support since being launched just before Christmas. Mrs Beagrie said, "A lot of visitors come to Bakewell precisely because it is full of small independent businesses. Our customers like to sit down and hear about the origins of the Bakewell pudding, or tart, and that kind of customer service is important to them. A Costa Coffee shop in town won't add anything to their visit and will attract a different kind of visitor who is just after a take-away coffee. This fast food approach is going to cause problems with parking and access along the narrow street which is bad enough already."
Mrs McBurnie added, "Costa's plans have split the town in two. At the most recent meeting, after we heard about the appeal decision, no business owners spoke up in favour of Costa but a small minority of residents were very vocal in support of the plans. It was even said that if Costa drove some of the smaller coffee shops out of business this would be a good thing because it would make more empty shops for other national chains to move into. Most of the business owners were appalled by this attitude as we're all hard working local people who have put a lot into our businesses; we all put our customers first and all have a lot of repeat customers who come back every year to hear about the local history and stories as part of their visit. They won't get this from Costa Coffee."
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Mrs McBurnie also said that she was worried about the knock on effects to other businesses in Derbyshire, "All of the independent businesses buy most of their produce, such as meat, eggs, cream and milk, from local suppliers and we understand that Costa has a central supplier which will mean that local dairies and butchers etc will also lose trade and this will include the delivery drivers. Costa don't even use the banks in town, they just send all of their takings off to a central banking system somewhere."
This is the second campaign launched in order to prevent Costa moving into the town. The initial campaign seemed to have been successful when the original change of use planning application was rejected last year. However, Costa appealed against the planning decision and the decision was overturned on the 18th of December, meaning that the company would be able to proceed with its plans to open.
The campaigners are hoping to repeat the success of a similar local protest against Costa which took place in Totnes last year when, after a six month battle, Costa finally agreed, in October last year, not to open a store in the Devon market town after campaigners were able to demonstrate that locals and visitors would still choose to frequent the town's smaller, independent cafes, rather than Costa, and that the move would have a detrimental impact upon the local independent business economy if the chain continued with its plans.
There are some people in Bakewell in favour of the plans and they have spoken out at public meetings and online with one supporter of the plans, Timothy Heard, tweeting "don't see the problem. I could never find reliable coffee in Bakewell." A number of people who have requested not to be named have said that the introduction of Costa into the town would help to bring younger visitors to Bakewell as well as hopefully being the start of more national brands moving into the town, however, Mrs McBurnie and Mrs Beagrie answered this by saying, "we're not opposed to Costa as such, or other national brands, but we are opposed to another coffee shop in town. It will hurt all of the smaller independent coffee shop owners and may mean people losing their jobs. There are already forty outlets in Bakewell where people can buy tea or coffee, if you include pubs and other outlets as well as the actual cafes, and so Bakewell just doesn't need another coffee shop, particularly one as large as this will be."
Local MP for Derbyshire Dales and Conservative Transport secretary, Patrick McLoughlin has said that he will not be drawn into the debate and is not supporting the campaigners, saying that no other options were available for the empty premises and that the nearby towns of Matlock and Ashbourne still retain independent traders alongside branches of Costa Coffee. It is believed that although other businesses have proposed to move in to the King Street premises no local or independent traders have been able to offer the landlord the long term security which Costa have proposed as they will be signing a ten year tenancy on the property at a reported rent of £25,000 per year.
Mrs McBurnie summed up the campaign against Costa by saying, "At the end of the day we'd like to keep Bakewell full of local traders for visitors to enjoy" and Mrs Beagrie added, "We want people to enjoy the products of Bakewell and the experience of being in Bakewell."
To register your support for the campaign visit the Stop Costa Coffee from opening an outlet in Bakewell page of the Change.org website or visit any of the shops in the town displaying a yellow and black protest poster to sign the petition in person.