PLANS for a coffee shop part owned by Tesco to open in Crowborough High Street have sparked concern for independent cafes.
An application by Harris + Hoole to open in the former Clinton Cards site has been backed by planners at Wealden District Council but residents, businesses and visitors to the town have said they are wary of the move.
The chain calls itself "a family affair", set up by siblings Andrew, Laura and Nick Tolley, although Tesco owns a 49 per cent stake in the company.
Its plans for Crowborough have sparked concerns that independent coffee shops such as The Old Fire Station Cafe, run by Lynn Harding-Dempster and her husband, will be at a disadvantage.
Mrs Harding-Dempster said: "It will definitely affect us, no doubt about it. To start with, Costa was meant to go there and I don't think that would have affected us so much as people know Costa is this big thing, but Harris + Hoole looks like a small thing, which it is not. I know a lot of people, including customers, who are angry that it will affect independent shops like us. But complaints won't make any difference."
Wealden District Council has supported the planning proposal so far, subject to the cafe's lights being restricted to opening hours.
Some Crowborough residents have made it clear that they would rather support a locally owned business, and that the space could be better used.
Richard Harris, 61, of Stone Cross said: "I think Tesco having a stake in a local business is bad. We have no independent shops, we need more little shops. There is no cinema or youth centre anymore. Crowborough is becoming very disjointed. The council has sold off everything."
A spokesman from Harris + Hoole defended Tesco's backing.
He said: "As a start-up business, Harris + Hoole is some years away from posting a profit. The Tolleys initially approached Tesco with the idea of creating a high-quality coffee concept for the high street. Tesco appreciated their expertise in this area and provided financial backing to help create the new venture, Harris + Hoole."