Anger over charity’s cafe plans

CAFE owners in Daventry believe plans to open an air ambulance coffee shop on the High Street will bring ‘unfair competition’.

The Warwickshire and Northamptonshire Air Ambulance (WNAA) is currently in the process of trying to open a furniture shop and cafe at the old Nobles site.

It has applied to Daventry District Council (DDC) for a change of use at the unit.

The charity plans to open a cafe alongside its shop which would employ five full-time staff and six volunteers.

But other cafe owners in town are unhappy as the WNAA will be entitled to pay reduced business rates.

Paul Bowditch, who runs the tea rooms at the Pigeonhole, said: “I’m definitely going to protest against this. We have only been open for six months ourselves and are trying to build up our customer base.

“I’m all for charity and I support the air ambulance but for them to have a cafe is unfair.

“We have to pay the full amount on business rates, bills, tax and VAT whereas they will have massive deductions.

“It will be able to undercut other cafes in the town and is in a prime location which is just unfair.”

La Patisserie owner Carol Stimpson added: “I’ve emailed the council my concerns because if charities start branching out and become direct competition for other businesses it is unfair.

“I’m 100 per cent behind the air ambulance, I think it’s a wonderful charity, but this is unfair competition.

“It’s already hard enough for us and all the other cafes at the moment without this. We have to fight for our rights and for the staff we employ.”

DDC councillor Chris Over agrees with the businesses and said he is ‘concerned’ about the impact a charity coffee shop will have on other cafes in town.

But director of retail at the air ambulance service Emma Vithlani said the charity is not looking to undercut businesses in town.

She added: “The air ambulance receives no Government or national lottery funding and relies on the generosity of the public to operate and save lives.

“We pay all bills as any other business except business rates where we are able to apply for discretionary rate relief.”