Retailers and local residents of the Kent seaside town of Whitstable are raging against Tesco’s attempt to infiltrate their high streets.

The local community, which is proud of its many independently-owned shops, has learned that a Harris and Hoole coffee shop scheduled to open in a former Clinton Cards store is, in fact, partly owned by Tesco.

The grocery multiple has a 49% stake in the chain of coffee shops, which already includes sites in the Chilterns and West London, and is in talks to buy a further 15 sites from the administrators of Clintons.

Two protests have taken place outside the Whitstable site. The most recent saw its windows and doors papered with protest posters following an overnight “stealth attack”. Slogans included ‘Tesco: Shuts every little shop’ and ‘The boycott starts here’.

An earlier protest saw 15 adults put Tesco carrier bags over their heads outside the shop, before pretending to suffocate.

Independent retailer Binny Amin, who owns a Budgens in the town, said local people had no love for Tesco or other multiples. “Whitstable is a thriving town bursting with innovative independents, and local people are proud of that and want to protect it,” he said.

Traders in the town have also launched a Save Whitstable Shops group in a bid to fight proposed rent increases.

Campaign spokeswoman Julie Wassmer said. “Last year our independent retailers were responsible for Whitstable being voted the best performing home town by the New Economics Foundation think tank. Now those same retailers are being hit with rent increases as high as 120%. If our independent shopkeepers are forced to close, it is likely only chains such as Harris and Hoole will be able to afford to take their place.”