Totnes seen as a model community

Totnes got national if not international recognition as the town that said no to Costa.

Not the local planning authority, they stuck two fingers up to the people and local businesses of Totnes. It was the people of Totnes, the local businesses, the town council, the mayor, the local member of Parliament who said no to Costa. The local district council, they didn’t give a toss for the people of Totnes.

Heritage is important. It gives character, sense of well being, quality of life, civic pride to a locality.

Heritage houses local businesses, it gives them somewhere to operate out of. They in turn give an area its character, its idiosyncrasies.

We see this in Totnes, we see it in North Laine in Brighton, we see it in Steep Hill in Lincoln.

People do not visit these places to drink coffee in Costa. It was a sick joke when Costa tried to claim they would enhance the vitality and vibrancy of the town, that they would attract tourists into the town. People visit to drink coffee in indie coffee shops.

You do not go to Protaras in Cyprus to eat at McDonald’s or drink coffee in Costa, you go to Nicolas Tavern for kleftiko a traditional Greek-Cypriot meal cooked slowly, slowly in a wood fire clay oven or sip freddo cappuccino sat outside patisserie amelie.

Independent record shops do still exist. It is not Amazon that treats music as a commodity, it is a platform that sells stuff and dodges tax, it is the major record labels that treats music as a commodity.

Ben’s Records in Tunsgate in Guildford, not only has a passion for music, but knows what the regulars like. It will be playing no sooner have you walked in the door.

Resident in North Laine in Brighton, has an amazing diversity of music.

Independent record shops and a thriving music scene seem to go hand in hand.

If you wish to use the net, there is bandcamp, which offers a far better deal to both artist and music lovers than Amazon, iTunes or Spotify.

The shop earmarked for Costa was a wholefood shop. It stood empty, it was claimed there was no interest, Costa were doing everyone a favour, occupying an empty shop. That lie has been exposed, no soonest has Costa pulled out, than it has found a use as an art collective and exhibition space and a leather workshop.

Independent businesses trade with each other, support each other, they recycle money within the local economy, they pay their taxes. Totnes even has its own local currency.

If Totnes is one end of the spectrum, then Aldershot is the other, a Victorian town raped by greed and planners in the pocket of developers and big business. If Totnes serves as a model for others to follow, then Aldershot serves as a model of what not to do.

Aldershot is a Victorian town, or was. It is unusual in that it sprang up almost overnight from an isolated village in the midst of heathland. Over a period of ten years when the Army arrived it became a Wild West boom town, brothels, pubs, victuallers, whatever was needed to service the needs of soldiers away from home.

Most towns would be proud of this heritage, not Aldershot. Systematically it has been destroyed. Many of the fine Victorian buildings were destroyed, or defaced by inappropriate developments, the heart of the town was gutted for a ghastly shopping centre, which houses the same clone shops as found in every other Clone Town.

Aldershot used to have a Victorian Arcade. It was levelled to the ground, to be replaced by a plastic replica. Last year it was acquired by a developer for redevelopment, the first act was to kick out all the small retailers who were in the way. The head of planning fell over backwards to try and push it through, blatantly lied to committee saying it was putting to good use empty shops (no mention why they were empty). For once councillors said no, and refused planning consent. It now goes to appeal.

Opposite The Arcade is a small row of shops. Possibly what is left of a much larger row of shops, another small row further down the street. These shops are 250 years old, pre-dating Victorian Aldershot by a century. The greedy developer who owns the ghastly shopping centre wants them demolished.

It could not be stronger, the contrast in this tale of two towns. Totnes is thriving, a strong sense of community, Aldershot is a centre of deprivation in an otherwise affluent southeast, a strong sense of alienation.

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One Response to “Totnes seen as a model community”

  1. keithpp Says:

    Reinventing the high street: Totnes, a shining example

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