Row over Marlow park cafe plans continues

Bucks Free Press: John Burnham (left) and Bob Savidge, who object to the proposed changes John Burnham (left) and Bob Savidge, who object to the proposed changes

A ROW over plans to open a branch of Costa in Marlow's Higginson Park has intensified, with objectors claiming the park’s picturesque views will be ruined by advertising signs.

‘The Cafe in the Park’ opened in 2008 once the Wycombe District Council-built cafe and toilet block had been completed.

Now a planning application has been submitted to make "external alterations" as part of a potential Costa Coffee franchise including doors, windows and advertising signs and air conditioning units.

But Bob Savidge, park spokesman for the Marlow Society, said the park’s views could be spoilt if it were allowed to go ahead.

"The problem is throughout the park there is no advertising signage, and some signs in Court Garden had to be taken down.

"They want signs all around the building and we are against that. Also, it sets a precedent and we will end up with signage all over the park.

"We have no objection to the building work changes as long as they meet environmental and building regulations, but who is going to pay for it?"

Land in Higginson Park is owned by the Higginson Park Charity, of which Wycombe District Council is the sole trustee.

The cafe, which was built as a shelter with gaps in the roof and windows, is set to be modified to make it a sealed, heated building under the plans.

Former architect John Burnham has complained the changes would not have been needed if the tax payer-funded building had been designed differently in the first place.

But Wycombe District Council insists the proposed alterations will be made at the leaseholder’s expense.

Spokesman Catherine Spalton said: "In general terms, we would not prevent advertising if it is relevant to the park and its operation, but advertising consent must be applied for and approved via planning.

"The café – as with Court Garden Leisure Complex - allows for signage relating to the operator to be displayed, as long as we give permission in principle as the Trustee and the landlord and advertising consent is granted through the planning process.

"Any alterations to the café would need to be paid for by the operator."

Despite the objections, some MFP readers have voiced their support for the plans and Marlow Town Council's Planning Committee presented no objections.

Coffee Snobs, the franchise behind the application, declined to comment as it has not yet agreed to lease on the building.

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