A very British insurrection: Totnes residents win battle to keep Costa out amid 'clone town' fears

 

The Battle of Totnes is over and the losing side is a multi-national coffee chain.

Costa Coffee has abandoned a campaign to open a café in the determinedly bohemian south Devon market town, despite winning planning permission for a 70-seat store at the foot of its hilly high street.

Its managing director, Chris Rogers, hauled up the white flag today, after visiting the West Country for a meeting with the town's rebellious MP, traders and townsfolk.

Perhaps in retrospect Costa, which has been spreading across the country and now has 1,400 outlets, picked the wrong town.

Mr Rogers admitted as much in his statement ceasing hostilities, saying: "Costa has recognised the strength of feeling in Totnes against national brands and taken into account the specific circumstances of Totnes."

Ever since Costa's plans to take over a vacant health food shop became known in May, indignant residents ran a vigorous 'No to Costa' campaign and gathered a 5,500-signature petition.

Costa insisted its store at 11 Fore Street - scheduled to open from dawn to dusk, 6.30am to 8pm - would "add new vibrancy by complementing the local offering" as well as create 16 full and part-time jobs.

With double the number of outlets of Starbucks, Costa is undisputed king of the £5bn-a-year British coffee market - and usually triumphs against the growing number of protesters who object to its expansion.

In what campaigners saw as a warning to South Hams District Council, its planning application detailed its successful appeals against residents' objections in other towns across the UK.

However campaigners fearful that Costa's arrival would start to turn Totnes into a clone town with identikit high street chains put up a strong fight.

Totnes has four chain shores - Superdrug, WH Smiths, Peacocks and M&Co - but its narrow High Street is packed with independent traders, including 32 non-chain cafes.

Frances Northrop, manager of Transition Town Totnes, a movement aimed at weaning us off our dependence on oil, told the Independent in August: "Totnes has got lots of heart and soul, which is down to the character of the buildings, the businesses and the people.

"Our fear is not just coffee shops, but Tesco Metro will come in - they follow each other."

On 1 August, when the planning committee of South Hams District Council met 140 placard-wielding protesters marched through the town.

Despite receiving only 9 letters of support for the application, and 260 letters of objection, planning officers recommended the return of an empty unit to use  and councillors voted by 17 to 6 in Costa' flavour. Four of the councillors opposing Costa represented Totnes and the surrounding area.

The battle for the soul of a medieval town known for its abundance of writers, therapists and herbalists was not over. With the support of their Conservative MP, Sarah Wollaston, townsfolk persuaded Mr Rogers to visit in late August.

Announcing his decision today, Mr Rogers said: "Totnes is a town with a long and proud history of independent retailers with one of the lowest percentages of branded stores of any town of its size in the UK, very few empty shop fronts, as well as a very high proportion of places selling coffee."

In a statement posted on the Notocosta.co.uk website, campaigners said: "We are impressed Costa has taken the time to understand our town, its economy and the 5,700 people who signed the petition asking Costa to reconsider. This is a major milestone for local communities and is a day when the value of localism comes into its own, albeit belatedly..."

Dr Wollaston - making an oblique reference to the tax position of Costa' rival Starbucks - praised Costa, adding:

"I recognise that this is a successful British business playing fair by paying its full share of tax, sourcing much of its milk from Devon and engaging too on the important issue of fairness to farmers."

She just felt that Totnes was not quite right for multi-national soy lattes.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Arts and Entertainment
From Mean Girls to Mamet: Lindsay Lohan
theatre
Sport
Nathaniel Clyne (No 2) drives home his side's second goal past Arsenal’s David Ospina at the Emirates
footballArsenal 1 Southampton 2: Arsène Wenger pays the price for picking reserve side in Capital One Cup
News
Mike Tyson has led an appalling and sad life, but are we not a country that gives second chances?
peopleFormer boxer 'watched over' crash victim until ambulance arrived
Arts and Entertainment
Geena Davis, founder and chair of the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media
tv
News
i100
Travel
travelGallery And yes, it is indoors
Arts and Entertainment
The Tiger Who Came To Tea
booksJudith Kerr on what inspired her latest animal intruder - 'The Crocodile Under the Bed'
Arts and Entertainment
British actor Idris Elba is also a DJ and rapper who played Ibiza last summer
film
News
Alan Bennett criticised the lack of fairness in British society encapsulated by the private school system
peopleBut he does like Stewart Lee
Sport
John Terry, Frank Lampard
footballChelsea captain sends signed shirt to fan whose mum had died
News
people
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Account Executive/Sales Consultant – Permanent – Hertfordshire - £16-£20k

£16500 - £20000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: We are currently r...

KS2 PPA Teacher needed (Mat Cover)- Worthing!

£100 - £125 per day: Randstad Education Crawley: KS2 PPA Teacher currently nee...

IT Systems Manager

£40000 - £45000 per annum + pension, healthcare,25 days: Ashdown Group: An est...

IT Application Support Engineer - Immediate Start

£28000 per annum: Ashdown Group: IT Software Application Support Analyst - Imm...

Day In a Page

Syria air strikes: ‘Peace President’ Obama had to take stronger action against Isis after beheadings

Robert Fisk on Syria air strikes

‘Peace President’ Obama had to take stronger action against Isis after beheadings
Will Lindsay Lohan's West End debut be a turnaround moment for her career?

Lindsay Lohan's West End debut

Will this be a turnaround moment for her career?
'The Crocodile Under the Bed': Judith Kerr's follow-up to 'The Tiger Who Came to Tea'

The follow-up to 'The Tiger Who Came to Tea'

Judith Kerr on what inspired her latest animal intruder - 'The Crocodile Under the Bed' - which has taken 46 years to get into print
BBC Television Centre: A nostalgic wander through the sets, studios and ghosts of programmes past

BBC Television Centre

A nostalgic wander through the sets, studios and ghosts of programmes past
Lonesome George: Custody battle in Galapagos over tortoise remains

My George!

Custody battle in Galapagos over tortoise remains
10 best rucksacks for backpackers

Pack up your troubles: 10 best rucksacks for backpackers

Off on an intrepid trip? Experts from student trip specialists Real Gap and Quest Overseas recommend luggage for travellers on the move
Secret politics of the weekly shop

The politics of the weekly shop

New app reveals political leanings of food companies
Beam me up, Scottie!

Beam me up, Scottie!

Celebrity Trekkies from Alex Salmond to Barack Obama
Beware Wet Paint: The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition

Beware Wet Paint

The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition
Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

Can 'The Endless River' carry on the tradition?
Sanctuary for the suicidal

Sanctuary for the suicidal

One mother's story of how London charity Maytree helped her son with his depression
A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

Not That Kind of Girl:

A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

Model mother

Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world