No to Costa in Southwold

When Chris Rogers (who just happens to be the boss of Costa) visited the Suffolk seaside town of Southwold last month, his request for a coffee from a local cafe was refused because ‘it was 3.25pm and they were about to close’.

This does not mean Southwold needs a Costa coffee shop (as Chris Rogers would see it), what it does mean is that an indie coffee shop needs to get its act together or go out of businesses.

The only way independent businesses can compete with unwanted High Street chains and tax dodgers like Starbucks and Amazon is to offer better service.

For indie coffee and tea shops that means a quality coffee machine, someone who actually knows how to make coffee, quality fair trade tea and coffee, delicious temping cakes that if not baked on the premises are sourced locally from a local baker, atmosphere, and if someone comes in wanting a coffee and unless you have good reason to close and have cleaned your coffee machine you serve them.

Lincolnshire coastal resorts Mablethorpe and Skegness have been having their annual whine, no one visits any more. The weather gets the blame. It is not though the weather, it is the appalling service, the appalling food.

I remember when my nieces were only schoolgirls, they went to one of these seaside resorts, wanting a drink, nearly everywhere they tried was closed, even though only mid-afternoon, finally finding a place open, the tables were dirty. They contrasted what they found with Tenerife.

I have been in places where the tables are dirty, when I asked that the table be cleaned, I have been told to sit at another table.

Town centres are failing for many reasons, poor choice, lack of diversity, destruction of heritage, drunken yobs on the streets.

Bad planning is also a reason for town centres failing. One only has to look at Aldershot where local council rotten to the core has systematically destroyed the town, where planners fall over backwards to push through bad schemes on behalf of developers, where councillors rarely act in the local interest.

In Aldershot there has been an attempt to destroy The Arcade, with the full backing of the planners. A row of shops, around 250 years old, is threatened with destruction.

In Farnborough, an old coaching inn The Tumbledown Dick is threatened with demolition for an unwanted drive-in McDonald’s.

Gainsborough, an old industrial site was demolished to make way for a retail park, the same boring shops as to be found up and down the country. The town centre was gutted, money drained out of the local economy. The local council is now wasting half a million pounds of public money at a time of austerity and spending cuts to dig up the streets and tart up the town centre. Whilst the work is in progress it will deter visitors to the town with no guarantee it will attract a single visitor when completed. The councillors wasting public money are the same councillors who granted planning consent for the retail park.

Grantham, the cobbled market is being dug up to be replaced by coloured concrete. This has led to strong protest at the destruction of local heritage.

In Lincoln, Sincil Street, the only remaining heritage running alongside the Central market is threatened with demolition. A street of character, an oasis compared with the chains in the High Street, many individual quirky businesses, like Café 44, an indie coffee shop.

When are dimwitted councillors who push these unwanted schemes going to recognise people visit a town because of its character?

Contrast with North Laine in Brighton, three streets similar to Sincil Street in Lincoln, many individual shops, little coffee bars, packed on a Sunday. Unlike Skegness, a place that attracts visitors, be it for a stroll on Brighton Pier of the Promenade or a wander around the Lanes and North Laine.

Costa does nothing for a locality. It drains money out of an area, for each fiver spent on a rubbish coffee and factory cake, that is a fiver less a small amount of loose change drained out of the local economy.

Indie coffee shops serving quality coffee, locally made cakes, can easily see off a Costa coffee shop.

Southwold should take stock of Totnes, they said no to Costa and forced Costa out of town with their tail between their corporate legs.

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