TRADERS in Ashburton have warned of ‘devastating consequences’ if plans for a drive-thru Starbucks on the edge of town go ahead.

A campaign to oppose it has been launched by the Ashburton Chamber of Trade. 

The plans include building five flexible non-retail business units, an electric vehicle charge park with cafe and drive-thru facilities.

Lydia Wood, publicity officer for the chamber says: ‘We have no objection to the business units and in fact welcome them as a much needed asset to Ashburton. 

‘Many buildings in the town centre are historic and development space is limited. 

‘The proposed units will brings industry and employment to the area, allowing businesses to grow and expand whilst not having to leave Ashburton and move to bigger cities. 

‘However we cannot support the application on the grounds of the proposed “electric vehicle charge park with cafe building and drive-thru facilities”. 

‘This is completely unnecessary for the site and it will have devastating consequences not only on Ashburton town centre but for Dartmoor National Park.’

In support of their campaign the traders cite Dartmoor National Park’s Local Plan 5.1.4 

This states: ‘Policies and strategies throughout the Local Plan work to support a vibrant economy. These include: concentrating new residential and business development in settlements to improve footfall on high streets and the viability of local services; ensuring larger scale town centre development is located in town centres and can have a positive effect on their vitality.”

5.3.4 states: ‘a proposal which is outside a town centre and would have a significant adverse impact on a town centre will not be supported.’

Lydia adds: ‘We are certain that this development would have an adverse impact on our town centre and therefore should not be supported.

‘The proposed Drive-Thru and Cafe cannot claim to boost any trade in the town centre, only draw it away. People pulling off of the A38 will not be encouraged to venture into the town centre, quite the opposite. 

‘On the same development site, planning has already been approved for a large convenience store which will compound the problem and directly take business away from our town centre shops.’

Within the applicant’s Retail Assessment they have included a ‘Town Centre Health Check’ which draws the conclusion that Ashburton has a healthy town centre and therefore won’t be affected by the loss of business and footfall that an out of town development will cause. We strongly disagree with this and would argue that it is because we have not allowed any out of town shopping developments that we are lucky enough to have a vibrant town centre. 

‘The applicant has also largely based the health of Ashburton Town Centre on the percentage of empty units, which was at 6.02% compared to an average of 14.18% nationally, when assessed in September.

‘This however does not include a number of businesses currently up for sale and cannot possibly provide an accurate measure of a town centre’s resistance to change.’

‘In conclusion, we believe it is clear that this application will not enhance Dartmoor National Park’s special qualities, nor will it conserve the National Park’s character and tranquility. It is clear that the development will have an adverse affect on Ashburton town centre and therefore we strongly object to the proposal.

The plans are due to go before the Dartmoor National Park Authority’s planning committee on April 21.

Starbucks has been asked for a comment.