THE PROSPERITY of Marlow is under threat with too many cafes and restaurants appearing on the High Street say business leaders in the town.

The balance of Marlow’s thriving High Street has tipped towards eateries and coffee houses according to Marlow Chamber of Commerce President Tim Graham.

This week, Mr Graham told a meeting of Marlow business leaders the rapid turnover of retail outlets in the town centre is becoming a worryingly trend.

With several planning applications appearing in the last few months to replace shops with restaurants, Mr Graham fears if the economy takes another hit, Marlow’s thriving centre could be put at risk.

He said: "One of the biggest issues facing Marlow is the curtailment of retail and the turnover generally of businesses.

"One person moves out, one person moves in and though there always seems to be a business to replace them but the worry is the nature of the businesses in Marlow are becoming more focuses and less general.

"There is a large influx of cafes and restaurants, and while they’re doing well and that’s great, if there is a hiccup in the economy and this type of business no longer succeeds we might just catch a cold.

"We need to a rich mix of businesses and to retain a balance."

Several new cafes and eateries have sprung up in Marlow over the last few months, including Thai restaurant Giggling Squid, French chain Cote Brasserie which is due to open next week and a second Costa Coffee.

New restaurants are also set to replace shops and office premises, with a planning application to convert gift shop Lorimers into a pizza and grill house.

And cafe chain Bill’s wants to move into an old office in West Street.

There are fears that as a magnet for tourists and shoppers, a more balanced selection of retail stores is needed to ensure Marlow continues as a vibrant ‘destination’ town.

Marlow councillor and former Wycombe District Council leader Alex Collingwood said at Monday’s meeting that the council intends to work with businesses to achieve a healthy retail mix in Marlow.

The politician, also a member of the Chamber through his work with Barclays Bank, said: "Retail balance is a key point for the town and I will sit down with the Chamber chairman and discuss it.

"I want us (the Chamber) to feed in directly to the Local Plan and have a more dramatic role.

"It’s about striking a balance. The worry is there are getting to be as many restaurants as we can take."