PEOPLE in Bishop’s Waltham are preparing to fight new plans they fear could put independent shops out of business.

The battle comes just months after Sainsbury’s was given permission to build a new superstore on the edge of the market town.

Now residents and business owners are worried about former ladies clothing shop Annabel’s being taken over by a national coffee chain, thought to be Costa Coffee.

A planning application for a change of use from retail to mixed has been submitted to the city council, which shows the change of use as a coffee shop.

Agent Savills, based in Cardiff, has put in the planning application for applicant Realis Estates Ltd, in Birmingham.

Documents show that the shop would employ eight full-time and eight part-time staff serving hot and cold drinks and cold food. Proposed hours are 7am to 7pm.

Resident Colin Latouf, whose wife runs a coffee shop on the High Street, said there are already five on the High Street and eight restaurants.

“We don’t need Costa Coffee in Bishop’s Waltham, we don’t need any corporate brand in Bishop’s Waltham,” said Mr Latouf, of Rareridge Lane, who added that, other than the Co-op, there were no brand names on the road.

“It’s a medieval village. It’s got huge history. “If you have one brand, the others will follow. What we’re concerned about is keeping Bishop’s Waltham independent.”

Tony Kippenberger, vice-chairman of the Bishop’s Waltham Society, and also the man who lead the campaign against Sainsbury’s, is also opposed.

He acknowledged that it was an unoccupied shop at present, but said the move could end up with other shops empty.

“We need our independents otherwise it becomes another clone high street and what’s the point of coming to Bishop’s Waltham?,” he said.

He added that one of the reasons Sainsbury’s was not judged to adversely affect the High Street was because it had the boutique retailers needed to attract people in.

“We have got enough coffee shops and it takes away a shop that should be a retail shop,” he said.

“I suspect they’re coming because Sainsbury’s are coming. I’m sure others will follow.”

The Hampshire Chronicle understands that Bishop’s Waltham parish council’s planning committee objected to the application on the grounds of having too many coffee shops, but that decision was overruled by full council giving a “no comment” response because it did not want a shop unoccupied.

Ex-councillor Dorothy Quiney, who resigned at the same meeting over an unrelated issue, said: “It’s overload.

“If we had another coffee house they would probably find it to be to the detriment of others.”

She said the change of use could open the site to a number of possible uses.

Neither Whitbread, which owns Costa Coffee, nor the application agent, would respond when approached by the Chronicle.