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Witney coffee shop switch gains approval
A NEW coffee shop is set to be opened as part of a new five- shop block opposite Witney’s Marriotts Walk Shopping Centre.
Realis Estates has been granted planning permission to change the use of a retail unit in Welch Way into a coffee shop.
The shops are under construction, after planning permission was granted for the scheme last July, and will open by Easter.
Realis has exchanged contracts with an unnamed coffee shop operator and toy store The Entertainer is also taking one of the shops.
The company said it was in discussions with “various high-quality fashion and lifestyle operators” for two other units while talks about the other shop are under way with a “high-quality ladies fashion operator”.
In its submission to West Oxfordshire District Council, Realis said: “All retailers who have expressed an interest in the development have been keen to see unit five function as a coffee shop.
“Retailers, particularly high-end fashion and lifestyle operators, are keen to see dwell time encouraged which, by its very nature, a coffee shop will help support and achieve.”
But Realis said its negotiations were taking place against the backdrop of the recession, adding: “Realis has marketed the scheme extensively since 2011, and whilst Witney is considered an attractive target location, some 20-plus national retailers have considered the site but ultimately rejected it.
“It is in this commercial context, and the preference express-ed by interested retailers, that the applicant has accepted the offer from the coffee shop operators.”
The council’s lowlands area planning sub-committee granted the company the change of use at a meeting last month.
Area planning manager Phil Shaw said officers originally had reservations about the loss of retail frontage but said that Realis had provided information to suggest coffee shops helped boost trade.
He said: “Apparently families going shopping stop here for a coffee and cake and mum says ‘I will just pop next door’. It makes people hang around in the area.”
He said four per cent of shops in Witney were coffee shops, compared with the national average of 14 per cent.
Witney North councillor Richard Langridge said: “I was not that happy to lose retail frontage for a coffee shops but I don’t think it’s sufficient to refuse the application.”
But Carterton North West councillor Pete Handley said: “I think we should hold out longer.
“Just around the corner we just had a sandwich takeaway go out of businesses and we have got a coffee shop diagonally across from it.
“I feel Witney has got far too many coffee shops. It’s just going to close another one somewhere else.”
Bampton & Clanfield councillor Mark Booty added: “The issue is whoever goes into the unit will have to compete with one across the road, but that’s what businesses do. I don’t see a problem.”