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Minority — not majority — against Costa Coffee moving into Totnes

By Herald Express  |  Posted: December 05, 2012

  • Costa Coffee

  • Totnes

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THE campaign to stop the Costa coffee shop moving into Totnes was only supported by a minority despite claims the whole town was against the chain, it has been revealed.

Only 12 per cent of local residents supported the NoToCosta campaign, despite claims from the local MP, the mayor, the town council and Transition Town Totnes that the whole town did not want Costa.

The findings come as the environmental group which stopped Costa has been accused of double standards for accepting corporate sponsorship of almost £3,000 from multi-national phone company Vodafone.

The NoToCosta petition has been analysed by community radio Totnes FM, which says two thirds of the signatories were from outside Totnes.

David Parsley, from Totnes FM, who conducted the analysis, said it had taken four weeks of pressure on Transition Town Totnes and the district council to obtain the document for scrutiny.

He said: "We couldn't take the document away and we had to spend two days counting signatures and see where people came from at the district council's offices.

"We decided to have a look at the petition when questions started being asked about the true number of people opposed to Costa coming into town."

Mr Parsley who himself signed the petition, added: "I was really surprised that it was so low.

"It shows the danger of petitions which only ask for one point of view.

"There was no vote in Totnes asking people if they wanted Costa or not."

Mr Parsley's findings showed fewer than one in eight local residents signed the TTT petition.

Of the 22,869 people who live in Totnes and the surrounding villages, only 2,895 people — 12 per cent — backed the campaign, which did not mention Costa directly but asked local people if they supported an independent high street and would boycott any coffee chain that opened in the town.

Of the 8,336 people who lived within the Totnes town borders, less than one in four — 24 per cent — signed the petition.

A total of 5,506 people signed the petition with almost two-thirds — 63 per cent — of signatures from people not living in the town.

There were signatories from as far afield as Edinburgh, Glasgow, Kent, Leeds, London, Manchester, Norfolk, and Surrey, Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Italy and even Morocco.

Mr Parsley said that despite only 12 per cent of local people signing the petition, the document was used by campaigners to justify their fight against Costa.

The coffee chain received planning consent from South Hams District Council for a change of use at the former Greenlife store on the High Street at the beginning of August.

TheNoToCosta campaign gathered pace, especially online, until Costa decided to pull out last month.

Prominent Liberal Democrat figure and former South Hams district councillor Anne Ward said: "What annoyed me was the way the whole thing was hijacked by TTT and the way the Town Council and MP just uncritically adopted their position.

"Quite clearly there was no majority of local people against Costa but that's what we were told. There's something unsavoury about how we were duped."

But Frances Northrop, manager of TTT, said the petition was never intended to be a ballot.

"The fact that 24 per cent of people in Totnes were motivated to sign a petition shows just how strongly people felt. Certainly they cared a lot more about it than the PCC elections."

An audit of the transition town charity's accounts has revealed it received £2,750 from Vodafone in 2011.

Mrs Northrop said: "The money from Vodaphone was a grant for a specific project through their World of Difference programme, which sponsors individuals.

"It was given independently to an enthusiastic supporter of TTT who didn't actually tell TTT she had applied until she had notification that the grant had been approved. By this time it seemed churlish to refuse the money."

Totnes mayor Pruw Boswell defended her position, saying: "I'm always truthful. I'm not going to resign. I have no reasons to do so. I have done nothing to be ashamed of."

She added: "I've been distressed by this when I haven't had the chance to defend myself."

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  • reiwruwiou  |  December 07 2012, 9:04AM

    Treleaven1, if my point is not worth responding to, then why did you respond? As for Tesco, Robert Peston writes "The UK's biggest retailer is looking more mortal and vulnerable than in many years". As for the other developers showing an interest in Brixham, I was under the impression that they put plans forward which were rejected, before eventually pulling out for various reasons - they did not get the avid support from the council that Tesco attracted from the word go. If you disagree with someone it doesn't mean that they are stupid.

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  • juanita  |  December 06 2012, 9:04PM

    I'm a resident of Totnes, but I find it interesting to hear about Brixham and Torbay, so thanks! If I might divert, for a moment, back to the debate about Costa in Totnes. I think, for me, the debate got a bit inflamed, simply because choice was taken away. I love Costa and I think it would have been great for the town. Some hate Costa and think it would have damaged the economy of the town. I like the element of choice. Some days it would have been good to go to Costa, some days it would have been good to go to an independent coffee shop, like in other towns. I couldn't figure out why those who hated Costa couldn't just say 'I hate Costa,yuk, never going there'. Of course the anti Costa campaign had good cred. TTT is a respected charity, the Town Council it seems were behind it, plus the national newspapers, and anti Costa groups in other towns were inspired by it. It was the way forward, the voice of the people had overpowered the multinational invasion. At the time, I felt a bit bullied into making Costa my enemy. It was if by drinking one coffee in a Costa I was ruining the economy of the town, and commiting a crime against planet Earth and humanity in general. The perspective felt a little bit askew. With such intensity, it seemed as if we were dealing with an arms factory, or somesuch terrible place. Of course, the anti Costa campaigners would argue that Costa is a bully itself, and that I have been duped. Well, I've gotten over it now. I've accepted that there will probably be no Costa in Totnes. I still love my town. I just go to other towns, for Costa, Nero and .. oh heavens! .. Starbucks. I have no idea if the Mayor should resign. I wouldn't like to be in her position right now, from the human perspective, but I have no idea about politics. I have no idea if Costa would or wouldn't have ruined the economy of Totnes, and maybe we will never know. Perhaps the campaigners meant well. Perhaps Totnes FM stirred it up a bit. Or not. Perhaps a lot of things. What came out of it all, maybe, is that the people got talking, seemed at one time as if the whole town was talking about it! and that's good, is it?, a bit of democracy?

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  • Treleaven1  |  December 06 2012, 8:58PM

    Honestly, what garbage you write reiwruwiou. What you heard on the news today about Tesco in America is totally irrelevant to their operations in the UK and as the previous contributor told you, Tesco was never the only one nor even the first to show an interest in the town centre develo… oh, what's the point in trying to communicate with such a dullard. You have such a ridiculously juvenile obsession with having the last word that you are quite willing to repetitively post the same inane nonsense time after time. There are several types of comments on this site ranging from, 'yeah, good point, I'll respond to that' to 'good point but not in my domain' right down to 'not worth responding to' which is the category you are now in. Goodbye.

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  • reiwruwiou  |  December 06 2012, 9:17AM

    abcxyz, people have made alternative suggestions - if you view them as non-runners then that is your opinion. Just two points. 1) Tesco are pulling out of the US and have issued warnings to their investors regarding their profits, due to be published in the new year. It is felt that they will have to restructure their business to maintain profitability. They may be big at the moment, but are they going in the right direction? Where will they be in 10 years time? 2) Did you marry the first person you met? If you want something, do you buy the first example you see? Even if it is the only one on offer in that shop? If Tesco pull out of this deal then the town may not actually "die" as you suggest. If you are convinced that it will then it may take a few years yet - by which time a more suitable alternative to Tesco may have been found. This thread is about coffee shops in Totnes, and Brixham Tesco was only dragged into due to inappropriate parallels being drawn. Perhaps we should leave the Tesco debate for another time.

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  • abcxyz  |  December 05 2012, 9:27PM

    And, reiwruwiou, if you read that comment carefully you'll see that it says this is NOT an alternative and the reason it says that is because it isn't. It is a suggestion not an alternative. I have yet to see an alternative proposal. As has been said to you several times, we are not talking about a wish list; we are talking about a genuine alternative proposal. A proposal that will offer the same advantages as the one on the table now, a proposal that is ready to go – now. Not in another five or ten years but now. A named private investor (because they'll be no public money) with the plans drawn up and the cash ready and waiting – now. That would be an alternative. Since just after the millennium this site has been sitting there awaiting development proposals and, as has already been pointed out to you, Tesco were never the only company with its hat in the ring, they weren't even the first, but the others all dropped out. BRATS say they have an alternative proposal and you say you have two amazingly. Well, lets hear them.

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  • reiwruwiou  |  December 05 2012, 9:46AM

    abcxyz, I am suprised that you doubt the existance of an article proposing an alternative to the Tesco development - you yourself have already actually commented on it on 22/8/12. You didn't like it then, so why should I go to the trouble? If I am accused of being "anti progress" then I have a right to say that I am not, I just don't think that we should blindly accept the first offer made (although I don't think that much effort has been put into looking for a suitable solution - the council want a new car park, and if Tesco are happy to foot the bill then they are happy to let them.) If challenged to suggest alternatives I have come up with two, rather than just sit there and say "oh no, we have to have Tesco, there is no option." I challenged the assertion that it is only a tiny minority against the Tesco development - I think that it is too close to call. This is actually an article about alledged minority interests imposing their will over the people of Totnes. Perhaps Brixham should get an out and out vote over the Tesco development? That way BRATS would be silenced once and for all if they lost... IF they lost...

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  • iseveryidused  |  December 04 2012, 11:57PM

    Quote ResidentXXX : "I wouldn't dream of using any of the tea/coffee houses in Totnes" - why on earth not? Try living a little, you may find out that the coffee is better quality and better value in the local places, they certainly have some individual character. You must have gone to Costa for the first time once." Not that I should have to explain my rationale, but Costa represents a certain level of consistency, quality and value. I don't want to experiment with finding a coffee house during my 30 min lunch break. I live quite a lot thanks, in fact I've experienced Costa in three countries this year, Oman, Saudi Arabia and New Zealand. Every one as good as each other :o) Someone said earlier that they considered Costa to be pretentious, ironically I would say boutiques and tea rooms to be toe curlingly sickly pretentious. But still, the middleclassed flock to Totnes to be fleeced in these twee little establishments.

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  • abcxyz  |  December 04 2012, 11:01PM

    Yes reiwruwiou, we know you don't like Tesco and we know you like Aldi. We know this because you keep telling us but this information has no bearing on this discussion whatsoever. It is meaningless with regard to this discussion just like your 'wish list' comment of 'yeah, lets have a big market and pack 'em in'. You keep leaving the same inane comments, losing the argument every time and then leaving those same comments again. As that very clever chap said, 'the definition of stupidity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results'. It's also the umpteenth time you have informed us about this article we can find in the HE about the 'alternative suggestion'. Well none of us have been able to find it so why don't you save us all a lot of time you find the article yourself and copy it into the comments then we can all have a look at it and leave our views on it.

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  • Sinjis_Things  |  December 04 2012, 10:44PM

    No doubt if the coffee was made from lentils and served in hand-knitted mugs the people of Totnes would not have complained!

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  • reiwruwiou  |  December 04 2012, 9:11AM

    acbxyz, search the online pages of the Herald Express and you will find an article about one alternative suggestion. Personally, I'm not against a supermarket per se, just not Tesco, and not in a place like Brixham, having seen the affect they have on a town first hand. I quite like Aldi, who are expanding at the moment, and have sufficient gaps in their product range for other retailers to exploit. I think a big, regular market (along the lines of Dorchester Market) would also "pack them in," without providing constant competition for existing retailers and allowing budding entrepreneurs a chance to launch fledgling businesses. The small markets that are currently held in the town (be they farmers markets or continental markets) do seem to pull punters in. It certainly isn't a case of snobbery or "nimbyism". Spindleshanks, I actually agree with you on some points - provided adequate parking is provided, and it isn't (yet another) Tesco (making three Tescos in Torquay) I think that there should be another store in Torquay. Don't for one moment think that Tesco will relinquish its grip on Edginswell - they can afford appeal any refusal of planning permission far more times than Torbay Council can afford to fight them. As I understand it they already own the land - they will just sit on it, letting it go to waste until a more "amenable" council is elected. This is the tactic that they have successfully used up and down the country. Edginswell is pretty much a done deal.

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