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I won’t be using Costa anywhere
Wednesday, 22 August 2012
MP backs boycott call over Totnes cafe plan
COFFEE wars in Totnes are reaching boiling point with the intervention of MP Dr Sarah Wollaston in the battle to save the town’s independent high street from big business.
The Tory MP is urging the coffee chain to reconsider its plans to open a café in the centre of town.
And although she admits to being an occasional Costa Coffee drinker herself, she is urging people to stay away from the shop and has threatened to boycott the beverage giant if it ‘imposes itself’ on the town.
‘I am very disappointed to hear Costa Coffee will be moving into Totnes high street,’ said Dr Wollaston.
‘I am aware that I am not alone in feeling this way. The strength of feeling on this issue has been evident and it is not too late for Costa to look at local opinion and decide to take its business elsewhere.
‘I am proud to represent such a strong local community that put such effort into uniting on this matter and would like to congratulate all involved in the campaign to protect the character of our town.’
Dr Wollaston said while she understood South Hams Council would have made its decision on planning grounds alone, she would be asking the Government to look at how the case had not taken ‘localism’ into account.
‘Totnes is unique and much of its character stems from its independent high street,’ she said.
‘My own view is that the planning policy framework should allow that to be protected by planners and I will be asking the Government to look at how this case has not demonstrated localism in action.
‘I know how passionate local people are about this and I did write to the owners of the premises when Costa Coffee first applied to take it over asking they that they give consideration to independents in choosing a tenant.
‘I realise the people of Totnes are disappointed and feel their views were not fully taken into account. I now advise people to vote with their feet.
‘There are so many wonderful independent coffee shops in Totnes, all contributing to its vibrant atmosphere and I wholeheartedly encourage people to continue to give them their custom.
‘Taking part in Transition Town Totnes’ Independent Coffee Week earlier in the year enabled me to appreciate just some of those on offer.
‘I understand that Costa Coffee shops have a place in the market.
‘If I am at a motorway service station or the centre of an unfamiliar city I may go in one, but if Costa impose themselves on Totnes I won’t be using them anywhere.’
Planning permission for the coffee giant to open a cafe and take away at the former Greenlife shop in Fore Street was granted despite a 5,700 community petition and fierce objections from the town council amid concerns that it will affect the vitality of the town and lead to businesses closing.
Undeterred by the setback, protesters say they will continue with their fight against Costa Coffee.
A breakaway splinter group from the original NotoCosta protest campaign is working on setting up a Facebook page under the slogan Costa Will Cost Ya as they prepare for the opening of the coffee shop before the end of the year.
And once trading begins, various strategies of sabotage are being considered including ‘mischief making’ pixies, a picket line in front of the shop, a day of mourning in the town and moves to block deliveries of supplies to the cafe.
Even the more unpleasant suggestion of posting dead rats through the letter box was made by Wendy Erlick at an Adios Costa public meeting in the Methodist Church hall last Tuesday attended by about 50 people.
Meeting co-ordinator Jay Tompt said it was time for action.
‘There was so much energy around the NotoCosta campaign, people are really angry and fired up about doing something,’ he said. ‘The eyes of the nation are on us. If localism can’t work in Totnes, it can’t work anywhere.
‘And if anyone can stop Costa and clonification it’s this town.
‘It is time for action and to take forward ideas so that when they do open, things are happening.’
Campaign supporter Massimo D’Alessandro proposed forming a Totnes liberation army inspired by pixies.
‘An army of pixies could create all sorts of mess inside the shop,’ he said.
‘We could create the most amazing things, all non-violent and legal.’
Kingsbridge Community College teacher Lorwyn Randall said it was important to understand when Costa Coffee would open in relation to the new academic year.
More than 100 students a day were seen walking around Kingsbridge with a Costa takeaway, he said.
Cllr Robert Vint said it was about local democracy and an e-petition could lead to a debate in parliament on whether the Localism Act was working.
‘It is an issue that could affect every town in some way,’ he said.
Other ideas put forward included daubing the town in anti-Costa pavement artwork, posters in shop windows – and covering the proposed Costa premises itself – and leaflet distribution at Totnes Show.
Martin Turner, of the Tangerine Tree Cafe, said he was conscious that the campaign was in danger of giving free advertising to Costa Coffee and it was time to reverse the focus.
‘We need too look at what we can do better in our own businesses so we are ready for it and if it doesn’t happen we have taken steps forward,’ he said.
Holly Tiffen, of the original Noto Costa campaign, said the movement had brought businesses and the community together and would now, working with Transition Town Totnes, be focusing on promoting the independent high street.
‘This campaign is bigger than coffee, it’s about support for our local businesses and how we imagine our high street to be,’ she said.
A map for visitors and a website will be produced highlighting independent coffee shops and other retail outlets in conjunction with the tourist industry and trade associations.
Afterwards, Frances Northrop of Transition Town Totnes, added: ‘We will also be working on the root causes of why Costa Coffee was granted a change of use when opinion in the town, including our elected councillors, had overwhelmingly shown they were not wanted.
‘This work will focus on influencing absentee landlords and lobbying to ensure the Localism Act and the rights enshrined within it, actually does deliver power to communities.’
A spokesman for Costa Coffee, which is part of the Whitbread group, said: ‘We are obviously disappointed to hear of plans to disrupt trade and very much hope that when we open we will be allowed to trade without being subject to threatening and potentially illegal behaviour.
‘We simply want to add to the vibrancy and choice that Totnes offers, providing great coffee and great, friendly barista service.’
All content © of Totnes Times unless stated otherwise.
Comments on this news item:
2 comments on this news item
Posted by : Louise, Totnes | Thursday 06/Sep/2012 | Report this comment
Sylvie-the article talks of nonviolent and legal action-where does it mention threats and intimidation? The community is rightly responding to a company that intimidated the planning committee by submitting a dossier of cases where planning decisions against them had been overturned and opened coffee shops unlawfully at various locations in England, such as in Bristol.
Posted by : Sylvie, Dartington | Thursday 30/Aug/2012 | Report this comment
I am neither for or against Costa, but feel strongly that once threats and/or intimidation are considered, the ’say no to Costa’ group have lost the argument. They have also succeeded in dividing the local community, not unifying it.
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