Subject : Friends of Regent's Canal - Starbucks update

Dear Friends,

As many of you are already aware, the Starbucks coffee chain is applying for permission to expand its operations (at Hampstead Road Locks) into an area reserved for canal information.

It is inevitable that the Friends of Regent's Canal will play some important roles in the progression of this application. We have an unbounded network of contacts, who are committed to promoting and protecting the canal and the heritage that surrounds it. With the help of our website and face-to-face communication we are in a strong position to facilitate the sharing of information. We can bring the issues, constraints and opportunities out into the open and hopefully this will allow all affected parties to have their say before it is too late.

Unfortunately, we will not be able to discuss this at our next meeting (23rd May) because the official consultation period ends on 7th May. So I have tried to anticipate your combined views on this application while discussing this with the local press. My current position is summarised below.

It would make no sense at all for the Friends of Regent's Canal to support this application. Even the title of the application serves to undermine the public perception of the canal.

Equally, it would be inappropriate for our group to object to the application unconditionally. I am sure that there are subgroups amongst us who have already lodged objections, but the rest of us are so diverse that we need to qualify our views.

Instead, I think we should postpone our formal comments for a week or two, and over the next 15 days we should itemise and expand on all the issues associated with this application. Doing nothing is not a sensible option, because the current arrangement at the Lock Keeper's Cottage is quite unsatisfactory. So for every hour we spend registering any objections we should spend at least ten hours identifying constructive alternatives. I am confident that, with the help of the Inland Waterways Association and other special interest groups, we will come up with suggestions that Starbucks and its advisors had not foreseen, and this should encourage them to alter their designs. We cannot treat their plans as non-negotiable; if this were the case then the future for waterways partnerships would be very bleak indeed.

It is quite likely that the application will be rejected at the first hurdle, due to a technicality. For example, failure to display adequate information in advance. But this will not alleviate the need for us to visualise the future format of the information centre; it will merely delay things.

For further information please visit the following section on our website. This is being updated day by day, so please send in any comments, if you think they will help to improve things.

Best wishes,

Ian Shacklock
Chair, Friends of Regent's Canal

21st April 2012

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