Thursday, October 25, 2012

Totnes beats off Costa

News just in: Costa has withdrawn its attempt to barge into Totnes against the will of thousands of residents (though not their local councillors). They'd thought they could use legal threats and cosy cooperation with the planners to override objections. Not that they've always taken the trouble to get planning permission before opening another branch. It's been a hard fight by clever, articulate people; most other communities have had to cave in.

Some may take the view of the spectacularly misguided (but he's still young, bless him) Tom Doran in The Independent (such a hackneyed use of the word "embrace", too) that opposing large-scale capitalism is a Leftist thing. If so, please define politically the 41 independent traders who offer coffee there. Liberty for the individual is not at all the same as liberty for large corporations to engulf and devour in their quest for infinite growth.

You'd think the MSM pseudosophisticates who chorus their support for Big MD dream of retiring to Birmingham city centre. Unlike about a million Brummies.

Let's hear it for Poujadism and "the defense of the common man against the elites" - surely a theme close to the hearts of libertarians.


Sobers said...

Bad news for the poor people of Totnes who aren't the middle class hippy types, but might still want a cheap and cheerful cup of coffee then. Typical rent seeking campaign by existing businesses to prevent a competitor giving their customers a cheaper option.

If no-one wanted it they should have just let it happen, and shunned it. Costa would soon have shut up shop if it had zero sales. But like when Tesco open in a middle class town that has fought them for years, its surprising how many people are actually shopping there once the doors open.

Glad to see that you approve of arbitrary discrimination in small towns. Just hope the locals don't get any ideas of other areas where they want to stop 'undesirable' incomers eh?

Sackerson said...

Hi, Sobers, nice of you to call by. Costa doesn't do an excellent latte for £1.60, which the shop I went to in Totnes did. The existing traders each have 40 competitors, but they don't have the marketing budget or the money to bully councils. If you're talking about rent-seeking, which I looked up on Wiki only yesterday, I'd say Costa fits the bill better.

Sobers said...

Why does an existing business need to 'bully' any councils? If they are a) cheaper and b) have better product than the competition, what do they have to fear? And as far as I'm aware, Costa coffee (or Starbucks, or any of the big chains) don't have massive amounts of advertising pulling in the customers. I can't say I've ever seen an ad for either in fact.

If the existing shops are 'better', and can compete on both cost and quality, then the only reason for opposing Costa is an irrational hatred of an outside organisation. Which hardly seem like a thing to be encouraged.

Sackerson said...

As I replied to the predictable comments on Orphans of Liberty:

“…most of the change of use application to South Hams is legal papers stating the reasons why, as the planning authority, it cannot recommend the application for refusal. It is obvious that their case is generic and churned out every time they apply to a planning authority.”

So much for the right of local people and their councils to make choices.

“The property is in the portfolio of an absentee landlord, London and Western Holdings plc based in London, who have been adamant, through Exeter based estate agents, Jones Lang Lasalle, that they need ‘strong covenants’ and so would not support applications from independent shops. Greenlife had been negotiating with local traders looking to consolidate smaller shops including Oxfam, who have a fantastically stylish charity store and separate book shop at the top of the town which they were in very serious negotiations with Jones, Lang Lasalle about relocating to the old greenlife store. They were even offering to take on the refurbishment costs, thought to be around £100,000. They ended up in a bidding war with Costa Coffee and had to pull out as the price rose too high.”

Within 5 minutes’ walk of our house in Birmingham, we used to have 3 independent butchers, 2 independent greengrocers, a sell-all-cum-post office, a second-hand bookshop and an “Aladdin’s cave” hardware store. No longer, though we do have an Aldi and two betting shops separated by a “knock-off” shop.

Freedom and choice issues just aren’t simple, and big money can play the liberty issue in order to reduce choice – and destroy livelihoods.

Sobers said...

The reason there are national planning guidelines is to prevent nasty little jumped up local dictators deciding that person A can have their planning application granted, because he or she likes that person, and refusing person B because their face doesn't fit locally. It also makes the entire system very much open to bribery, when one person has the power to decide what can and can't happen in a locality. Indeed I don't think one person should have that power, and it is an entirely good thing that there are nationally enforceable (via planning appeals) rules on what is and what isn't allowable in planning terms.

The alternative is a nasty little miasma of people who go to the right golf club, and belong to the right lodge, or know who to bung a few quid in a brown envelope, getting exactly what they want out of the system, and anyone who is outside local 'in-crowd', or not prepared to 'play the game' getting the short end of the stick repeatedly.

This is how it used to be in local government, and having been on the receiving end of such behaviour, I don't want to see its return.

Sackerson said...

I certainly take that on board, Sobers. People forget about small-scale tyranny when they consider the State.

Sobers said...

Small scale, large scale, tyranny is fundamental to the existence of the State.