We have previously reported on the battle between Totnes and Costa Coffee. Residents and businesses of the Devon town have been fighting for six months to prevent the coffee chain opening an outlet on Fore Street.
They argue that the arrival of Costa would damage the character of the town, which is renowned for its predominance of independent retailers, and lead to Totnes becoming another ‘clone town.’
It is a battle that has attracted national attention – particularly given the debate about the future of our high streets – and has led to Totnes being described as ‘the town that declared war on capitalism.’
Now the David and Goliath clash is over and locals are celebrating a surprising victory after Costa abandoned its plans in the face of such fierce opposition.
Costa is the UK’s largest coffee chain and announced its plans to open a branch in Totnes in May. Local opposition was immediate and organised. A campaign group, No to Costa was established and both the mayor, Pruw Boswell, and MP, Sarah Wollaston, spoke out against the proposal.
Stylish Trainspotting style posters were produced, bearing the slogan ‘Clonestopping,’ calling on residents to ‘choose local, choose independent.’
In addition there were marches, meetings and plans to boycott Costa. Nearly 6,000 signatures were added to a petition opposing the application but, despite the level of opposition, the plans were approved by South Hams District Council.
At this point it seemed that the battle may be over but last week company representatives asked to meet Sarah Wollaston at the House of Commons.
It was at this meeting that managing director Chris Rogers announced that Costa recognised that Totnes was a unique case. It has a low proportion of branded stores, an abundance of independent coffee shops and very few unoccupied retail properties. Consequently, he said, the company was abandoning its plans to open a branch in the town.
Pruw Boswell was overjoyed. “You don’t mess with Totnes,” she said. “It might seem like a quiet place where you can roll in and do what you want, but we have shown Costa that we are the mouse that roared.”
On the No to Costa website a statement says the group is delighted by Costa’s decision. It continues; “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.”
They are now calling for a meeting with the council to discuss the empty premises and to agree a way forward following their stunning victory.
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