Drive-thru Starbucks for Bedford retail park approved despite councillors' objections

They felt they had no choice but the approve the plans due planning rules
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Plans for a Starbucks drive-thru in Bedford have been approved despite councillors’ objections.

And despite acknowledging that none of the committee members were “wildly happy that we have approved this”, councillors felt their hands were tied by planning rules.

Bedford Borough Council’s planning committee considered the planning application for the drive-thru at St John’s Retail Park in Bedford at its meeting on Monday (January 23).

Starbucks coffee cups (Photo by Stephen Chernin/Getty Images)Starbucks coffee cups (Photo by Stephen Chernin/Getty Images)
Starbucks coffee cups (Photo by Stephen Chernin/Getty Images)

The application was to demolish the former Maplin store to build a single-storey drive-thru coffee shop.

The opening hours were originally proposed to be 24 hours a day but were reduced to 6am until 11pm.

The application was before the committee as it had been ‘called in’ by councillor Lucy Bywater (Green, Castle).

“We really don’t need another drive-thru on the busy St John’s Retail Park and it would be harmful to the local area and to the detriment of local residents,” she said.

She added that residents in Kingsbrook Road – a residential cul-de-sac – have suffered noise from increasing traffic related to the retail park.

“[The] quality of life has also been damaged by intrusive noise from the customer tannoy at the Costa drive-thru [in the retail park],” she said.

People can hear what people are ordering all the way through opening hours.

“It would likely be the same from Starbucks, it’s the same kind of mechanical issue, please be aware,” she said to the committee members.

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Councillor Sue Oliver (Labour, Kempston North), a committee member, said: “You might well say to residents here, ‘well there was a retail park there when you moved into your property’.

“However, that was before the time of the coffee culture that has since developed.

“The other shops that are on that site aren’t the same as having drive-thrus.

“I’m looking for ways of saying can we refuse this and I can’t find any,” she said.

Committee chair, councillor Jonathan Abbott (LibDems, Oakley) said: “We can only consider the application which is in front of us.

“We cannot, unfortunately, take into account things like the behaviour of other units which are on the site.

“But our officers and highways have deemed to think that it is suitable, we are very much constrained by national planning policy, we are constrained by our own local planning policy as well.

“If we refuse there’s a chance that it will go to appeal, and the last thing I ever like is for us to refuse an application and residents feel that they have had they’ve got a victory.

“That goes to appeal and it’s promptly lost.

“I don’t think there is a council member in this room tonight, who is sat here thinking fantastic, but we are constrained,” he said.

The committee voted to approve the application.

“Unfortunately the application is approved,” councillor Abbott said after the vote.

“Please understand that I don’t think there is a single councillor in this room who is wildly happy that we have approved this, but we are constrained, unfortunately, by planning policy,” he said.