The Campaign So Far
February 2010 – An inquisitive local found out the workman in 140-142 Cheltenham road were down from London to fit out a new Tesco shop. Word travelled fast that Tesco was trying to open a shop in Stokes Croft by stealth. Over 200 locals turned up to a meeting at Hamilton House. Turns out Tesco applied for planning permission under a different company name back in November 2009 – so much for the community engagement stuff on their website.
The Council, who didn’t realise Tesco were behind the application, sent letters to 55 addresses in the area asking if it was OK to change the use of the building from an entertainment venue to a shop. No more detail than that.
A group of people quietly left the meeting and took matters into their own hands. They took back the premises over night and turned it into a wonderful temporary community space. There were meals, music, language classes, and film showings.
The rest of us turned up to protest on Saturday 13 Feb 2010. The whole of Cheltenham Road was full of people who came to wave placards, blow horns, bang drums, generally make their voices heard.
Following the protest the campaign really got going. Over 2500 people sent postcards to the Council saying the consultation was not good enough. We needed to find out what local residents really think about a supermarket opening up.
Teams of people asked over 500 locals what they thought the impact of a supermarket would be on traffic, the local economy and whether they agreed with the ethics of big supermarkets. 96% of people asked felt a Supermarket on Cheltenham Road would be bad for the area.
March 2010 – A few people went to Bristol City Council to meet with Barbara Janke, Jon Rogers, Zoe Willcox, Nigel Butler and Gary Collins. They were helpful in explaining the predicament we find ourselves in but they say they are powerless to act despite clear opposition to Tesco by the majority of people in the local area.
The Planning Process favours big business and leaves people with little power to influence development in their local area. This campaign is not just about stopping Tesco against the odds but a way to show that planning and development has to change to put people at the heart of the process.
While we were reading boring policy documents and talking politely to the Council, the people peacefully occupying the site had war waged against them. Talk about heavy-handed! Tesco have hired a security firm to turn the Old Jesters into Fort Knox. When it comes to integrating with the community they seem to be going from bad to worse.