Within a week of Tesco opening its doors Stokes Croft has found itself the focal point of serious violence and confrontation. Over the last few years our beloved community has undergone an amazing home grown resurgence. We are therefore devastated that Tesco’s refusal to listen to what the majority of local people want has resulted in our vibrant, peaceful community being subject to such a sad state of affairs.
We are also deeply saddened to witness the reality that we live in society in which young people feel the only way to see justice done is to throw rocks. The reality is the government / corporations / media have created this society and are now trying to blame young people for the mess they have created. What future can we hope for if corporations are allowed to continue to dictate governments; if their insatiable appetite for profit is allowed to reign supreme?
Yearlong peaceful protest
For over a year the majority of the local community have campaigned peacefully to stop Tesco from opening. 2500 people sent postcards to the Council, thousands more signed petitions and 96% of 700 people surveyed said they don’t want a Tesco. Despite such overwhelming opposition Tesco decided to totally ignore the wishes of the majority of the community.
Justice undermined through the planning system
We painstakingly navigated the planning system and presented an overwhelmingly strong legal case for the Council to refuse Tesco planning permission to open. Yet Planning Officers ignored our objections and refused to engage with us. We insisted an impact assessment was needed around the threat over 40 deliveries to the store would pose to our community’s safety. Planning Officers told us this would be illegal and so refused. We pointed to the fact that Cambridge City Council had refused permission for the same application on the grounds of deliveries. Again we were ignored. Various legal experts confirmed we were correct. Yet still Planning Officers refused to discuss this with us. Yet just minutes before permission was granted, the Council’s solicitor finally admitted they had got it wrong and the threat posed by deliveries to the store was in fact a ‘material consideration’. However, but this stage Councillors were thoroughly confused and so granted permission anyway.
We are currently pursuing a Judicial Review of the Council’s decision because we are of the firm belief that Planning Officers failed to follow proper procedure regarding deliveries to the store and subsequently wrongly granted permission for Tesco to open. Watch this space for updates.
We think it is essential that Tesco does not reopen on Cheltenham Road. We do understand that they feel it is important to not be seen to give into violence. However we feel strongly that their withdrawal would simply be a long overdue recognition that they are not wanted in our community. On their website and in their Corporate Social Reponsibility report Tesco claim to listen to the local community as soon as they identify a site. We are calling on Tesco to abide by this claim. To recognise that they are not a positive contribution in our community and that the only fair thing to do is to leave.
We are soon to begin mediated negotiations with Tesco and other key stakeholders. We look forward to being able to discuss this with Tesco and can only hope that they come to the table as human beings with their hearts wide open, rather than as representatives of their corporation who have left their moral values at home with their spouse and children.