Independent businesses have little chance of getting their hands on one of the town centre’s prime spots, the Faversham News can reveal.
In an exclusive interview with a young entrepreneur who has worked relentlessly to fight plans for a Costa in the Market Place, he has revealed that he has simply been told it’s a “multi-national business” or nothing.
Oliver Sebastien, 27, has successfully set up and managed bars and events across Europe but has returned to his roots and set his sights on his hometown and in particular the spot where coffee giant Costa intends to open up.
With a wealth of knowledge and experience in the industry, Mr Sebastien hoped to open a jazz and live piano bar with an eatery and coffee house, themed around the rich history of the building, a venture he believes is a niche in the Faversham market.
He made an application at about the same time as Costa early last year but his realistic offers to the agents have been continuously turned down.
He and business partner Glen Richards have worked tirelessly drawing up the designs, devising a business plan and engaging with the community, attracting support from local traders, Faversham MP Hugh Robertson and even brewers Shepherd Neame.
Mr Sebastien’s dream is to become a “local benefactor”, pledging to use local produce, services and employees which will give back to the town, something he believes a chain will never do.
“As a local businessman, it has been made clear by the agents that I have little chance of acquiring the building and they are only looking for a multi-national like Costa..." - Oliver Sebastien
And his inspiration? The man who occupied 12 Market Place way back in the 1500s, Henry Hatch, who is known as Faversham’s greatest benefactor, leaving about £900,000 to the town.
Mr Sebastien, a DJ by profession who is currently managing Goodness Gracious two doors down, said: “Ever since Stead and Simpson left that building, I have had my eye on it.
“But I’m now in a difficult position where my only chance of securing 12 Market Place is by finding a guarantor for the business.
“As a local businessman, it has been made clear by the agents that I have little chance of acquiring the building and they are only looking for a multi-national like Costa.
“Glen and I have put a lot of work into this and we are not giving up yet.
“We have a lot of passion and drive and hopefully we can secure a guarantor to take our plans further.
“It’s a big opportunity for the town.”
In a letter to Mr Sebastien, surveyors Ratcliffes, based in London, say: “My clients have always maintained they are looking for a national multiple to take this property.
“We have had many approaches from local businesses with a longer track record than yourself and none of them have been of interest to my clients.”
Town councillors recommended the application for Costa for refusal in November last year but it is still due to go before Swale Borough Council’s planning committee in the coming months.
To view their application, visit pa.midkent.gov.uk and search for reference 14/505083/FULL.
Chairman of the Faversham Business Partnership (FBP) Chris Bichard says: “Obviously the FBP is very keen that 12 Market Place in particular is made presentable and the sooner the better.
“The challenge is clearly the landlords agent, and perception that a large firm will offer the longevity that perhaps they seek.
“The other challenges are the change of use planning and use, for either party independent or not.
"It is our stance that the property will be renovated by someone and it is hoped whoever it is will achieve job creation, become part of the community and offer to the community added value, not just a pretty building.
“The FBP is looking to engage in conversation with all parties interested in any development and improvement to the town and surrounding areas, for the better of the community. This will include Oliver and we will support his business plan to the hilt.”