CONTROVERSIAL plans for a drive-through cafe on the ‘gateway’ to Ashburton are to be the subject of a site visit.

Planners at Dartmoor National Park agreed to visit Dolbeare Meadows Business Park to see the area where developers want to build business units and a drive-through, believed to be Starbucks. 

The £3million investment plans have sparked outrage among Ashburton’s business community and prompted 76 objections.  

But traders have launched a campaign against the drive-through cafe. 

Ashburton Town Council had appealed to the planning authority to make a visit to the site before making a decision due to concerns over increased traffic and concerns about the cafe proposals. 

Today’s meeting saw 10 committee members vote in favour of making a site visit expected to take place within the next two weeks. 

Planning officers had recommended the committee approve the application which is for five flexible non-retail business units, electric vehicle charging points with café building and drive-thru facilities.

The consider the plans are a sustainable use of the site and that the cafe would provide an ‘alternative offering’ which would be ‘unlikely’ to impact town centre cafes. 

Major objections have been the potential impact on Ashburton town centre, particularly the drive-through cafe.

Speculation has been that it is Starbucks although national park officers only confirmed at the meeting that it is a national chain. 

Officers told committee members that the project was expected to generate £760,000 for the local economy and create 36 full time jobs while regenerating a site which has been vacant for many years. 

But Lydia Wood, from Ashburton Chamber of Trade, claimed data used to assess the possible impact was out of date and compiled by a company based in London which had not spoken to business in the town or even visited.

She told the committee: ‘We are sure this will have an adverse impact on the town centre.

‘This will lose us business and we can’t afford to lose even one per cent of our trade.’

The chamber has no objection to the business units and believes they would be an asset to the town.

But Ms Wood went on to explain how some business owners had been forced to take part time jobs to survive, relied on friends and family to help out and weren’t drawing any wages.

She said: ‘We are hanging on by a thread.’

Dale Evans, agent for the applicants, said the proposal was a £3million investment and would create new jobs.

He said: ‘We acknowledge the responses to the cafe but there are no other preferable sites available.

‘The town centre will not be significantly affected and this development will complete the gateway site, providing a much-needed facility for residents and visitors and encourage more businesses into the park.’