Bread wars erupt as bakers clash in Tony Blair’s backyard

Landlords upset independent bakers by giving backing to new chain store

A bread war has broken out in Connaught Village after a new chain store bakery received permission to open up on the same turf as an existing independent bread shop.

Le Pain Quotidien, which has more than 150 bakeries worldwide, was last week granted planning permission to move into vacant premises in Kendal Street.

But independent baker and chocolatier Cocomaya, which has a shop round the corner in Connaught Street, says the area, which counts Tony Blair as a local resident, is not big enough for the two of them and it could be forced to close as a result.

Cocomaya bosses say landowners Church Commissioners – who run Connaught Village as the Church of England’s property arm – have gone against an agreement that no other bakers would be allowed to open in the area.

In an objection to Le Pain Quotidien’s planning application, Jane Khan, Cocomaya director, said she felt “bitterly let down”.

She said: “We were given verbal reassurance from the Church Commissioners that they would not allow a further bakery to open in Connaught Village.

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“This verbal agreement was reached based on the mutual understanding that there is, and has remained, limited footfall and passing trade in the area.

“Two bakeries are simply not viable.”

She added: “Our lease expressly states that the Church Commissioners will not open a further bakery in Connaught Street.

“In this context we understood that Connaught Street was the immediate area and was interchangeable with Connaught Village.”

Cocomaya opened in October 2009 when Ms Khan says bosses “rejected other more viable business opportunities” because of “reassurances” given by the Church Commissioners.

“As directors and owners of the business we showed a loyalty to the area and were committed to attempting to build additional trade in the area and to create economic activity,” she said.

She added that the business and its directors have been “instrumental” in attracting other companies to the area.

Le Pain Quotidien’s planning application divided residents and businesses with 17 letters sent to the council in support, 17 in objection and a 46-person petition against.

Westminster Council’s planning committee chairman Cllr Michael Brahams said the “popular and lively” bakery – which plans to open early next year – will help improve the shopping area.

The Church Commissioners and Cocomaya declined to comment further.