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.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
News
Sir David Attenborough
people
Life and Style
Young girl and bowl of cereal
food + drink
News
Comic miserablist Larry David in 'Curb Your Enthusiasm'
peopleDirector of new documentary Misery Loves Comedy reveals how he got them to open up
Arts and Entertainment
Henry VIII played by Damien Lewis
tvReview: Scheming queens-in-waiting, tangled lines of succession and men of lowly birth rising to power – sound familiar?
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Sport
football
Arts and Entertainment
'The Archers' has an audience of about five million
radioA growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Ready to open the Baftas, rockers Kasabian are also ‘great film fans’
musicExclusive: Rockers promise an explosive opening to the evening
Life and Style
David Bowie by Duffy
fashion
Arts and Entertainment
Hell, yeah: members of the 369th Infantry arrive back in New York
booksWorld War Z author Max Brooks honours WW1's Harlem Hellfighters in new graphic novel
News
advertisingVideo: The company that brought you the 'Bud' 'Weis' 'Er' frogs and 'Wasssssup' ads, has something up its sleeve for Sunday's big match
Arts and Entertainment
tv
News
i100
Environment
Dame Vivienne Westwood speaking at a fracking protest outside Parliament on Monday (AP)
environment
Life and Style
tech
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

Tradewind Recruitment: English Teacher

Negotiable: Tradewind Recruitment: This post arises as a result of the need to...

Tradewind Recruitment: Class Teacher Required ASAP In Uminster

£120 - £150 per annum: Tradewind Recruitment: I am recruiting on instruction o...

Ashdown Group: Head of Finance - Financial Director - London - £70,000

£70000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Head of Finance - Financial Controller - Fina...

Ashdown Group: Marketing Executive - Wimbledon, SW London

£24000 - £28000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Marketing Executive - Wim...

Day In a Page

Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

Homeless Veterans appeal

MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

Comedians share stories of depression

The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

Has The Archers lost the plot?

A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

14 office buildings added to protected lists

Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee
World War Z author Max Brooks honours WW1's Harlem Hellfighters in new graphic novel

Max Brooks honours Harlem Hellfighters

The author talks about race, legacy and his Will Smith film option to Tim Walker
Why the league system no longer measures up

League system no longer measures up

Jon Coles, former head of standards at the Department of Education, used to be in charge of school performance rankings. He explains how he would reform the system
Valentine's Day cards: 5 best online card shops

Don't leave it to the petrol station: The best online card shops for Valentine's Day

Can't find a card you like on the high street? Try one of these sites for individual, personalised options, whatever your taste
Diego Costa: Devil in blue who upsets defences is a reminder of what Liverpool have lost

Devil in blue Costa is a reminder of what Liverpool have lost

The Reds are desperately missing Luis Suarez, says Ian Herbert
Ashley Giles: 'I'll watch England – but not as a fan'

Ashley Giles: 'I'll watch England – but not as a fan'

Former one-day coach says he will ‘observe’ their World Cup games – but ‘won’t be jumping up and down’
Greece elections: In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza

Greece elections

In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza, says Patrick Cockburn
Holocaust Memorial Day: Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears

Holocaust Memorial Day

Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears over Europe
Fortitude and the Arctic attraction: Our fascination with the last great wilderness

Magnetic north

The Arctic has always exerted a pull, from Greek myth to new thriller Fortitude. Gerard Gilbert considers what's behind our fascination with the last great wilderness