Subject: Starbucks Update (Canal information Centre in Camden Town)
I am writing to keep you informed about the status of the canal information centre at the Lock Keeper's Cottage. If you are interested in this story, or if you want to influence the next steps, then please read on...
I am afraid that the plans have gone slightly adrift in recent weeks. This month I was expecting to be directing people to the council website, to view the revised plans that we had helped to influence. Instead, the plans are on hold while legal enforcement documents are being exchanged between the council, Starbucks and other parties.
My current thinking is that it would be inappropriate for the Friends of Regent's Canal to take sides in these exchanges, because we have been aiming for compromises that are incompatible with the main outcomes that could occur.
The latest news is that Camden Council has served an enforcement notice against the current operation that would require Starbucks to either vacate the premises (by July 2013) or yield 51% of the floor space and provide a fully functioning visitor centre. Unsurprisingly, Starbucks have appealed against this and the matter is to go to a Public Local Inquiry. If anybody wishes to send comments to the Planning Inspectorate then they must do so before 21st November.
If Starbucks win their appeal then in theory they would be legally entitled to abandon all their visitor information promises for the remainder of their lease. I would be amazed if they chose this course of action, because it would attract very adverse publicity and because their UK staff recognise that a dual use building offers a win-win opportunity. Nevertheless it would put us into an unknown situation and we would need to rewind all our negotiations.
If Starbucks lose the appeal then they might decide to close the premises altogether and there would be no visitor centre of any description until a new lease is signed. Alternatively, they might decide to downsize their operation, possibly with a reduction in rent, and release the remaining space for public use. This could still meet our needs, but this scenario has not been explored yet. It is probably the best possible outcome but it is not really in our control.
Whatever happens we will continue to campaign for the revival of the visitor centre regardless of how it is funded. I intend to write to the Planning Inspectorate this week, to explain the context from our perspective, without committing our group to support either the enforcement or the appeal. If anybody wants to write directly to the council or to the Planning Inspectorate then I will happily supply the details.
Chair, Friends of Regent's Canal
12th November 2012
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