A NEW Costa Coffee in Hadleigh could signal the first step in the town’s regeneration, residents hope.

Castle Point Council has approved the coffee chain’s request to open a new branch in the former Natwest bank on London Road, which closed in February 2014 after a reduction in trade due to a greater use of online banking.

The coffee shop will be open between 6.30am and 8pm seven days a week and on bank holidays, with about 78 seats inside and 12 seats outside on the pavement.

David Hurrell, of Willow Walk, Hadleigh, was a founding member of the Hadleigh and Thundersley Community Archive, and said he was delighted the chain was making use of an empty historical building and kicking off the area’s regeneration.

He said: “I think it’s great we’ve got one of these big household names coming back into the town as it will help regenerate it a bit and sends a positive signal to others who may follow.

“I walked past the derelict Crown pub recently and I’ve heard its days are numbered – if we don’t use these buildings, they get knocked down, and for that reason I’m thrilled Costa is taking over the old Natwest.”

Norman Smith serves as a business liaison in the council’s cabinet and said he hoped Costa’s arrival in Hadleigh would encourage others to move in. He said: “I’m pleased larger companies like Costa have deemed it fit to come to Hadleigh and I hope it will attract further larger chains to come into the area.

“With regeneration imminent, I think these companies are starting to look at Hadleigh with a view to see what’s going to be happening here.

“It’s always a concern for other traders, but often these big chains attract more people into the area and they benefit from it as well – so from my point of view, this is good news.”

The news was well received on Twitter when Costa first drew up its plans last month.

Issy Wallings (@Issy_Wallings) tweeted: “The Costa in Hadleigh will be very useful,”

while Tobias Benjamin (@thatsouthendkid) could hardly contain his excitement, tweeting: “Can’t believe they are gonna have a Costa Coffee in Hadleigh. Thank you council!”

The purpose-built bank building was first opened in 1922, but then became a Westminster Bank in 1934 after the branch, originally called London County Westminster and Parr’s, had spent the previous 12 years trading from a “lock-up shop” as a subsidiary of the Leigh branch.