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.

VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition iPad app?
Sport
sportReal Madrid 1 Bayern Munich 0: Germans will need their legendary self-belief to rescue Champions League tie in second leg
News
people
Arts & Entertainment
tvReview: The insights of Ricky Gervais's sweet and kind character call to mind Karl Pilkington's faux-naïf podcast observations
Life & Style
techProbably not, this lamp is secretly live-tweeting conversations from a McDonalds
News
Ain't that a kick in the head: a still from Jared Frank's money-spinning video
mediaTrain Kick Selfie Guy is set to scoop up to $250,000 thanks to his viral video
Sport
The redeveloped Anfield will eventually hold 58,800 supporters
footballClub marking return to Champions League elite
Arts & Entertainment
musicPaul Weller says ‘greedy touts’ have wrecked vinyl promotion
Voices
peopleWhat better hero for Britain than Saint George?
Sport
Stephen Hendry has not played a ranking event for two seasons
Stephen Hendry poised for a sensational return to snooker
News
Fresh hope: Ruth Womak and her dog Jess
educationHow one housing association's remarkable initiative gave hope
News
Higher expectations: European economies are growing but the recovery remains weak
newsThe eurozone crisis has tipped many into despair and extremism - this radically altered landscape calls for a new kind of politics, argues economist Philippe Legrain
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition iPad app?
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Senior Construction Solicitor – Surrey

Excellent Salary Package: Austen Lloyd: This is a rare high level opportunity ...

Construction Solicitor NQ+ Manchester

Very Competitive Salary: Austen Lloyd: This is an excellent opportunity within...

Corporate Finance

£80000 - £120000 per annum + Highly Competitive Salary: Austen Lloyd: US QUALI...

Banking / Finance Associate - City

Excellent Package: Austen Lloyd: Banking / Finance Associate - We have an exce...

Day In a Page

Chris Addison on swapping politics for pillow talk

Chris Addison on swapping politics for pillow talk

The 'Thick of It' favourite thinks the romcom is an 'awful genre'. So why is he happy with a starring role in Sky Living's new Lake District-set series 'Trying Again'?
Why musicians play into their old age

Why musicians play into their old age

Nick Hasted looks at how they are driven by a burning desire to keep on entertaining fans despite risking ridicule
How can you tell a gentleman?

How can you tell a gentleman?

A list of public figures with gallant attributes by Country Life magazine throws a fascinating light on what it means to be a gentleman in the modern world
Pet a porter: posh pet pampering

Pet a porter: posh pet pampering

The duo behind Asos and Achica have launched a new venture offering haute couture to help make furry companions fashionable
A History of the First World War in 100 moments: The mutiny that sent a ripple of fear through the Empire

A History of the First World War in 100 moments

The mutiny that sent a ripple of fear through the Empire
Hot stuff: 10 best kettles

Hot stuff: 10 best kettles

Celebrate St George’s Day with a nice cup of tea. Now you just need to get the water boiled
Through the screen: British Pathé opens its archives

Through the screen

British Pathé opens its archives
The man behind the papier mâché mask

Frank Sidebottom

The man behind the papier mâché mask
Chris Marker: Mystic film-maker with a Midas touch

Mystic film-maker with a Midas touch

Chris Marker retrospective is a revelation
Boston runs again: Thousands take to the streets for marathon as city honours dead and injured of last year's bombing

Boston runs again

Thousands of runners take to the streets as city honours dead of last year
40 years of fostering and still holding the babies (and with no plans to retire)

40 years of fostering and holding the babies

In their seventies and still working as specialist foster parents
Rubin ‘Hurricane’ Carter: The man who could have been champion of the world - and the Bob Dylan song that immortalised him

The man who could have been champion of the world

Rubin ‘Hurricane’ Carter and the Bob Dylan song that immortalised him
Didn’t she do well?

Didn’t she do well?

Miranda Hart lined up for ‘Generation Game’ revival
The Middle East we must confront in the future will be a Mafiastan ruled by money

The Middle East we must confront in the future will be a Mafiastan ruled by money

In Iraq, mafiosi already run almost the entire oil output of the south of the country
Before they were famous

Before they were famous

Can you guess the celebrity from these British Pathe News clips?