MORE than 1,000 people have signed a petition supporting a business at risk of closing because of controversial plans by a coffee shop chain.
The support has been achieved in less than a month since Havant Fruit and Flowers in West Street, Havant, began a campaign to stop Costa putting in three tables and chairs on the pavement directly next to the shop.
Stephanie Willis, owner of the shop, fears the business could be left without any displays as fresh produce cannot be stored next to people smoking – even though the coffee shop giant says the area will be non-smoking.
She said: ‘Since we started the petition people have been coming in specifically to sign it.
‘We didn’t realise people would feel so strongly about it. They’re coming in saying, “we heard about what’s been happening, where do we sign?”.
‘My son set up a Facebook page about it and it has more than 200 members.
‘To be honest, we’re shocked by the support we’ve received.
‘We’ve taken the petition to Havant Borough Council and it’s just a case of waiting now to see what happens at the hearing.’
For more than 14 years the greengrocers has been a fixture in the town centre with bright displays of fresh farm produce.
It is one of the last independent shops in the town.
Costa moved next door to the shop three years ago.
But it now wants to put in tables and chairs on the pavement outside directly next to it.
Mrs Willis said: ‘It’s council land and we have been openly using it for the past 14 years.
‘They’ve never told us to get off and we assumed we would always be allowed to use it – we were allowed when the bank was there before Costa. They didn’t have a problem with it.’
A spokeswoman for Costa said: ‘We have complied with all council regulations and the area under review would be a designated no smoking area.
‘As the application is currently being reviewed by the council we have no further comment at this stage.’