Costa pulls out of Totnes

When you want something ...

When you want something …

When you want something all the universe conspires in helping to achieve it. — Paulo Coelho

Fantastic. My town Totnes has seen off corporate coffee shop. Communities can win. — Jonathan Dimbleby

They had planning consent to move into an empty shop unit, a former wholefood shop, but such was the strength of feeling in Totnes against Costa muscling its unwanted way into Totnes, that Costa has been forced to pull out.

As I predicted when this story first broke, it has proved to be a very expensive mistake for Costa. The good folk of Totnes made it very clear, Costa was not wanted.

But the story was not only Totnes. Across the country people reacted, enough is enough, we do not wish to see the same coffee shops in every town.

5,700 signed a petition saying no to Costa, the local Mayor said no, the local member of parliament said no, the town council said no.

They were a bit slow getting the message, but finally the message has got through to Costa that they were not wanted.

A chain like Costa does nothing to enhance a town like Totnes, the same corporate brand, poor quality coffee, poor working conditions, factory cakes.

Unlike local shops, Costa does not recycle money within the local economy, it drains money out of the local economy.

It took a few months, but Costa finally listened to what local people were telling them.

This cannot be said of South Hams Council and their planning department who pushed the planning application through on behalf of Costa or the spinless local councillors who rubber-stamped what was put before them. They now have egg on their faces. Questions need to be asked why they failed to act in the best interest of Totnes.

If anyone wishes to see what happens when planning goes wrong, very wrong, then visit Aldershot. Once a proud Victorian town, Aldershot is now dying thanks to years of bad planning by a dysfunctional planning department that pushes whatever developers want.

The town centre is large bars and fast food outlets. End of this month a development opens on the edge of town centre. An eyesore that is out of keeping with the Victorian town. A development of national chains, fast food outlets.

Aldershot is a centre of deprivation, the last thing it needs is more money drained out of the town.

The Arcade is a former Victorian arcade in the centre of town. A developer has kicked out all the small retailers, to turn into one large bar (Wetherspoon) and one large retail unit (Poundland). The remaining retailers with their thoroughfare closed will die. Not good for a dead and dying town with drunken yobs on the streets at night.

The planning officials fell over backwards to try and force the scheme through. The councillors for once showed backbone and said no.

The Costa decision to pull out shows you do not have to have these national chains, you can, as Saxmundham did to Tesco, say no.

What is sickening is that no sooner do Costa announce their wise decision to pull out, than Pizza Express show an interest in moving in. What interest if any does Whitbread have in Pizza Express?

Most communities, once planning consent had been granted, would have given up. Not Totnes. They vowed to fight on and their tenacity has seen them through.

A clear message has gone out from Totnes. You do not have to be bullied, steamrollered. You do not have to accept decisions from dysfunctional local planners in the pocket of developers.

Had Costa not pulled out, they would have faced a massive boycott in Totnes, and as Totnes is a tourist destination, a boycott that would have spread across the country.

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4 Responses to “Costa pulls out of Totnes”

  1. Herbie Says:

    Costa pulled out for strategic business reasons and it is working.
    See letters in 20p Independent of 29th October.
    There is, in fact, strong support for Costa in Totnes. The anti Costa petition was also signed by tourists and many from the surrounding areas.
    A referendum would have produced a far more accurate result.
    Do you actually know anything about Totnes? The anti Costa brigade have succeeded in worsening the already deep divisions within the local community. Most of the locals cannot afford to shop in many of the typical shops in Totnes. They rely on those “ghastly” chain shops for their basic needs. The only shop [part of a chain]selling affordable shoes is closing soon. As an elitist, you would not, of course, have any sympathy for these individuals.
    I have canvassed locals in pubs, taxi drivers, builders and other manual workers, hairdressers, teenagers, teachers, etc. etc.,and have found strong support for Costa. Personally, I don’t particularly like coffee.
    Mark my words, the anti Costa campaign has been totally counter-productive and will lead to a worsening situation for local businesses.

  2. keithpp Says:

    Costa pulled out because they saw it was beginning to backfire across the country. Comparable with the McLibel case a decade ago.

    Costa is not cheap, serves poor quality coffee, poor working conditions, drains money out of the local economy. Costa is not going to spend money with local businesses.

    It is therefore difficult to see what benefit there be to those on low income or local businesses.

    If tourists signed, that is because they see what damage has been inflicted on other towns by Costa and other chains.

    Tourists visit because Totnes is different. Or would you rather tourists no longer visit and no longer bring in money, that chains drain money out of your local economy?

    If you wish to see how bad it can get, visit Aldershot, a dead and dying town, a slum of fast food joints, large bars, gambling joints, charity shops, drunken scum on the streets at night, drug deals going down during the day …

    And just when it could get no worse, the Westgate development has opened, the local council delivering the final death blow.

    People will tell you that in the 1950s, 1960s, Aldershot was a proud Victorian town, a town that people would visit.

  3. keithpp Says:

    Letter in Liverpool Echo is excellent analysis of the situation. Totnes fought to preserve their identity, but then look at Liverpool. Could equally say look at Aldershot or many other towns that have been destroyed

    The independent trader will soon be a thing of the past unless people stand up and fight (as they did in Totnes).

    But it is not only developers we have to fight, we also have to fight and root out the endemic corruption in local councils that is allowing this to happen, councillors and official too often in the pocket of developers and pushing their unwanted schemes (more often than not dressed up as regeneration).

  4. keithpp Says:

    Costa is now finding it increasingly difficult to steamroller its way into small towns. The Totnes victory has galvanised others to redouble their efforts against Costa.

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