Devon community rejects Costa, but they move in anyway
These days, to stand out from the crowd, touristy towns and villages are advised to have a unique selling point. Ecclestone in Lancashire can now boast of being Wiggo’s home town but Whitney in Oxfordshire has absolutely nothing to brag about.
Take the case of chocolate box town of Totnes in Devon. Not glamorous enough to have an actual coastline like it’s near neighbour Paignton*, the townspeople needed to find some other way of distinguishing themselves from any other pretty town in Devon. Totnes is the home of the independent shop, no identikit high street here, just a wonderful and eclectic mix of individual and local shops.
Given this wonderful USP, the latest decision by the Town Council seems a little odd. The latest quirky and independent retailer due to open its doors in Totnes is none other than Whitbred-owned multiple-locationed chain Costa Coffee.
Unsurprisingly, the townspeople are not impressed, and a whole campaign “NoToCosta” and petition, signed by close to 75% of the residents, was launched to try and stop the planning permission being granted. The council ignored such "emotional arguments", and the new Totnes Costa will be open soon.
So why did the Council go against the views of the majority of people living in Totnes? Presumably it is because Costa fits the Totnes Information Centre’s description of its retailers as “friendly and individual, with the focus on quality and customer care.” No? Possibly the councillors believed Costa’s own hired spin doctor who produced ‘evidence’ that the presence of the chain would increase visitors to the town.
Councillor Basil Cane told This is Cornwall that the eight full-time and eight part-time jobs would be welcomed. "We wouldn't be doing our job if we didn't recommend this for approval," he said. "In 12 months or two years, the people of Totnes will be saying 'what a wonderful thing we have a Costa here'."
Community representative Jill Tomalin, refuted the arguments saying: “To cite statistics and national precedents, as Costa have done, is to miss the point. It invites mediocrity and leads to an outmoded model of a high street. Our current wellbeing relies on offering something different." Presumably something other than overpriced designer coffee.
So what do you think? Is Costa ever really a selling point for a town? Will Totnes’ reputation be sullied by the presence of a big chain? Will the Town Council have to change their own website town description “Totnes' shops are friendly and individual, as befits a place of such character.” Or are jobs more important than anything else?
*who also have a Costa.