ONE of Havant’s last independent shops says it could close because of a controversial decision by a coffee giant.
For more than 14 years Havant Fruit and Flowers has been a colourful fixture in the town centre, with bright displays of fresh farm produce.
The shop, based in an old stables, has historically been a greengrocers.
But Costa Coffee, which moved next door to the shop three years ago, now wants to put in three tables and chairs on the pavement outside directly next to it.
Stephanie Willis, who owns the shop, fears the business could be left without any displays as fresh produce cannot be stored next to people smoking.
The 55-year-old has already cut back some of her displays to allow Costa more advertising space on the high street – and fears the latest move could be the final nail in the coffin.
Costa already has four tables outside and space for a further four in the Meridian Centre.
More than 300 people have signed a petition in just four days to stop Costa’s plans.
Mrs Willis said: ‘For three years Costa has been there and for three years it’s not had a problem.
‘What difference is three tables and chairs going to make to a big company like Costa?’
She added: ‘Havant is a small old market town.
‘If we lose these sort of shops, it loses its character.’
Shopper Brian Conduct, 70, from Denvilles, said: ‘They are bullying a traditional vegetable shop that has been here for years.
‘I’m sick and tired of the Americanisation of England.’
Havant Borough Council, which owns the pavement, has received an application for a street trading licence from Costa.
A spokeswoman said officers were visiting the site yesterday and no decision had been made.
No-one from Costa was available for comment yesterday.