Page last updated at 10:24 GMT, Friday, 12 June 2009 11:24 UK

Fate of coffee shop to be decided

Starbucks cups
Starbucks in St James's has not been allowed to trade as a coffee shop

A public inquiry into whether a Starbucks coffee shop in Brighton which opened without planning permission can remain open has ended.

The shop opened in St James's Street May 2008 without permission to use the site as a cafe or restaurant.

Protesters claim the chain will have a detrimental effect on independent retailers in the city.

But Starbucks, which only has permission for retail use, said it had created a number of local jobs.

The three-day public inquiry ended on Friday, with the inspector's decision expected in six weeks' time.

'Positive contribution'

The firm's proposal to convert the former bookshop in St James's Street was rejected in 2008 by Brighton and Hove City Council over concerns about the number of coffee shops and restaurants in the area.

The authority served an enforcement notice on the Starbucks store in December, which took effect from 9 January.

Starbucks has been allowed to sell takeaway coffee and sandwiches, which cannot be consumed inside.

People campaigning against the opening of the coffee shop have gathered a petition containing more than 4,000 signatures.

They are worried that rents will increase, making it more difficult for independent retailers, if too many chain stores open in the area.

There are 12 other cafes in and around St James's Street and five Starbucks coffee shops in Brighton and Hove.

Starbucks said the store had created about 14 new jobs, made a positive contribution to the local area and provided a relaxing and safe environment for customers.

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