Totnes is a tourist-led town in the holiday enclave that is Devon. And the locals are up in arms about a national coffee chain opening there. Over three-quarters of the local population have signed a petition urging the town council not to allow Costa Coffee to open there. Of course it’s not just Costa, the objections would have been around any of the other national chains like Starbucks. Objectors claim that Totnes is a thriving independent town that embraces individuality. With over 40 independent coffee shops and even an independent Coffee Festival it does not want to risk turning into a clone town.
Unfortunately for many of the Totnes residents the town planning process lies elsewhere and Costa have been given planning permission to open. The local MP has supported the petition and even suggested a boycott. Criticism has also been aimed at the landlords who residents feel are outsiders and just going for the largest rent available – So when is competition not acceptable?
As one of the established coffee businesses states the problem is while they feel they offer a better experience and coffee, the big brands are risk-free, and for many tourists the option of choosing a well-known brand is dominant over trying a new unknown experience. So have Totnes residents got a genuine concern or are they just trying to stifle the competition – now given planning permission, and opening soon, the market will probably decide for itself.