Totnes Costa coffee shop row brewing

Coffee machine - generic Opponents fear if Costa moves in to Fore Street, it could put some of the town's 30 or so independent outlets out of business

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Residents of a Devon town are trying to prevent a national coffee chain moving in to their traditional, and mainly independent, high street.

Costa Coffee has applied to set up shop in a former health food store in Fore Street, Totnes.

With several independent outlets serving tea and coffee, many local people want the application rejected.

Costa says it will not comment until a planning decision is made by South Hams District Council.

More than 3,000 people have signed a petition against the application.

The ancient town, which began life as a fortified Saxon settlement, is well-known in the South West for its "alternative" image and has a resident community of writers, therapists, musicians, and herbalists.

'Strong-arm tactics'

"Totnes is a really unique town with a really thriving high street full of independent shops," Holly Tiffen of Transition Town Totnes said.

"We have more than 30 outlets which sell coffee in Totnes. They're all independent and it's felt if Costa Coffee came into Totnes, potentially a lot of them could go out of business."

Costa's application includes details of other towns across the UK where it has successfully overcome residents' objections.

But that has angered some people who claim Costa is employing "strong-arm tactics".

"That's really a statement of 'take us on if you think you're hard enough'," Paul Wesley, chairman of Totnes Chamber of Commerce, told BBC News.

He said Totnes has some national stores and the chamber is not against chains like Costa, but it wants to maintain a balance in the town.

The council described Costa's application as "standard", but would not comment further.

The public consultation will run until 13 June.

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