NORTH Devon Council is considering its options after claiming that a national coffee retailer has started work on a new Barnstaple shop prior to obtaining the necessary planning consent. According to planning officers, work by Costa Coffee to convert the

NORTH Devon Council is considering its options after claiming that a national coffee retailer has started work on a new Barnstaple shop prior to obtaining the necessary planning consent.According to planning officers, work by Costa Coffee to convert the former Woolwich Building Society building at 75 High Street restarted on July 7. A listed building application for changes to the outside and inside of the Grade II building, together with signage, was turned down by the council in May this year."Works began on the building prior to listed building consent being obtained and are currently being carried out without our agreement," said planning officer Keith Bines. "We are investigating our options and considering future action."Mr Bines said there were three options open to the council:"We can either seek prosecution for carrying out unauthorised work; seek an injunction to cease work on the site; or we could decide that it is in the best interests of the public to do neither," he said.Mr Bines said that colleagues from the planning department had been to the site and advised builders that work should cease. "When we saw that work had recommenced, we advised [Costa] to stop but they have since sought to continue."We have had a continuous exchange of correspondence over this. They [Costa] are fully aware of our views and have made their own decisions on the back of those."Nevina Holland, PR manager for Costa Coffee, said Costa had sought legal advice from a planning barrister. "The guidance received states that the majority of the work proposed by Costa does not require consent from the Local Planning Authority," she said. "However, the elements that do require consent will be altered by Costa to become acceptable."With this new and definitive guidance, Costa will seek yet further dialogue with the Local Planning Authority to reach a mutually agreeable way forward."Costa remains committed to opening in Barnstaple and is excited at the opportunity of becoming a part of the thriving local community."The same building was at the centre of a similar controversy in 1995, when the council refused change of use conditions from a shop to a building society. It finally became the Woolwich after an appeal to the Secretary of State, who eventually decided the change of use was not inappropriate.