South West Spar retailer Clive Sheppard has had his application for the Exeter Pound refused because he was told his business was “just like McDonald’s”.

The Exeter Pound, which is due to launch on September 1, has been devised as a way to connect individuals to a variety of independent businesses, strengthen the local economy and keep money circling locally. A number of similar schemes operate in towns and cities across England.

But Clive, director of the Chartman Group which operates a number of stores in the South West, including in Exeter, is unable to participate in the city’s scheme. He said: “I applied to have the Exeter Pound in my store but was declined. When I asked why, I was told I was a franchise, just like MacDonald’s. Shocked by the response, I told them I was an independent retailer under the Spar brand and nothing like the fast food chain.”

An Exeter Pound spokesman was adamant that Clive would not be able to join. Ian Martin, Exeter Pound project manager, said: “While we understand that franchises are independent businesses in their own right, it was decided in the course of conversations with our stakeholders that franchises and franchise-like businesses should be excluded because they benefit from the marketing support, purchasing power and infrastructure of a national or international brand.” Clive is now looking to his local council for support.

Elsewhere, the Bristol Pound has been in circulation since 2014, but the inclusion of c-stores under a symbol group is a “grey area”, said Michael Lloyd-Jones, core scheme manager. “Whether they should be let into the scheme has been a toying question since the beginning. At the moment it’s the ‘branding’ and ‘feel of the store’ which makes us less likely to allow them to be part of the Bristol Pound,” he added.