A MULTI-NATIONAL corporation which set up shop in Pinner without permission has won its battle to stay open, to the disappointment of some residents.
Starbucks opened its coffee shop in High Street in November 2007, converting a former bookstore and erecting its trademark green signs on the front.
Uproar ensued as Harrow Council objected against the firm's presence in the town without the correct planning permission, and local residents including the Pinner Association attacked the corporation for ducking the proper processes.
The head of planning Councillor Marilyn Ashton declared herself unwilling to “let them get away with it”, describing the battle as “David versus Goliath”, and rejected Starbucks' attempts to get permission retrospectively.
However, Planning Inspector Jane Miles, who listened to two days of arguments from the council and Starbucks, ruled on Friday, May 14, in the company's favour, giving them the legal right to stay in Pinner.
She commented that the large numbers of people coming to Starbucks and that 45 per cent were getting drinks and food to take are “major benefits”, outweighing any loss of retail space – the council's argument.
She also decided “the value of Starbucks is all the greater in bringing people into High Street” and said its use as a cafe, shop and social meeting place added rather than took away from what Pinner has to offer.
Ruth Boff, from the Pinner Association, said she was “disappointed” with the overall decision, not because residents had anything against Starbucks, but because they objected to the approach the company had taken.
She said: “We are disappointed that the views expressed by ourselves and the council have been rejected, but we will continue to be vigilant and ensure the vitality of the retail centre in Pinner remains.
“Starbucks set up in Pinner without going through the correct planning process that you or I would have to observe. They think they can bluster their way through and scare the council into agreeing, and that should not be.”
She added the decision was not that surprising, after a similar case in Brighton went Starbucks' way last year, but said she doubted a small independent business would have been able to have the same success.
Pinner residents were not all against the cafe opening, and some went to the extent of setting up a Facebook site backing the firm. It has become a popular meeting place, particularly for mothers and babies who say the facilities offered are exactly what they need.
Andrew Trehern, the coouncil's corporate director for place shaping and planning, did not comment on the decision, other that to promise the council will ensure high streets are “balanced” and the identity of local areas like Pinner is protected.