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The end of Tesco

Tesco now closedTesco has finally closed its store on Mill Road today.

When plans for a store were first announced back in 2007, thousands of people opposed it. Local residents came together to say that another supermarket wasn’t wanted or needed on a street famous for its independent businesses. They organised, they marched, they wrote objections.

Thanks to that community effort, the store that finally opened two years later was smaller and less disruptive to the families living around it.

Because the site was already a shop, Tesco were able to go ahead and open, even after they were repeatedly refused permission for their expansion plans. But because of those refusals, the store was more expensive to run and not able to sell alcohol.

When it finally opened, many people chose not to shop there, preferring to support the local independent shops, run by people who were members of the community, or to use the Co-op that had been part of Mill Road for over a century.

The result was that the Tesco store that most local people never wanted and never used was a loss-making site from the start. In the first months of its operation, people who worked there said that it was losing £10,000 a week. If that carried on, it will have lost over £6 million in the years it was open.

We don’t actually know how much Tesco lost by refusing to listen to local shoppers and forcing open the store. But we doubt they’d be closing if they were making a profit.

So today marks the end of Tesco on Mill Road.

But what’s ending is less important than what won’t change.

In one way, Tesco perhaps did us a favour in 2007. It made thousands of us realise just how much we valued what was unique about Mill Road. It made us realise that we didn’t want to lose that special character.  And it made us more aware of the area as a community. It brought us together.

A lot has changed on Mill Road since 2007. Some shops and restaurants have closed and new ones have opened. It now has a beautiful, award-winning mosque. We’ve lost amazing people who worked for and shared their love of the area.

But despite the changes, it remains the same: a diverse, thriving community with the unique character that made people work so hard to protect it. Long after Tesco has been forgotten here, Mill Road will continue to be a place where people want to live and work, where they want to shop and eat, and come together as a community.

So, thank you to everyone who has helped to make this a place we want to be – a place worth fighting for.

See you on Mill Road.

A poem, from Ed Jenkins, whose videos from 2007-9 you can also browse.

The ‘Express’ has been derailed
Yes Tesco in Romsey has failed,
Campaigners said when Wilco left
Tesco eventually will fail the test.

They fought long and hard,
But Police held the trump card,
The Company was told,
‘No alcohol will be sold’.

Road safety became an issue
With danger seen in any queue,
Unloading supplies taking time,
Keeping traffic in frustrating line.

So deliveries had to be done
Round narrow streets by tiny van,
Only little and often to happen
No large loads to break the pattern.

The time has come,
Campaigners have won,
And now they can say,
‘No Tesco in Mill Road’ is back to stay.

Ed Jenkins, 28th May 2022

10 years ago

Tesco opened their store 10 years ago today.

The store looks as if it is unprofitable as ever. Despite its probable loss-making, Tesco will probably never pull out, which would be to acknowledge that one of the largest anti-Tesco campaigns in the country was right.

This is a small store with a limited range that is hard to service. Thanks to our efforts, Tesco failed to get an extension, failed to be able to deliver using the large lorries they wanted, cannot deliver from on Mill Road, and cannot sell alcohol. They lost planning applications as well as an appeal in front of a government inspector, and had to rely on the existing very limited shop permission.

Rarely do you see many customers in what is a small store offering nothing that other local shops and the Co-op already have.

Millions of pounds have been taken out of the Mill Road area as a result of this store over the last ten years, reducing the viability of the other shops.

We encourage people to Shop Local and support your local traders.

Mill Road Winter Fair 2010

Come and visit the Milly Card stall at the Mill Road Winter Fair on Saturday 4th December 2010!

Supporting Mill Road – meeting on 14th October

Dear Mill Road Supporter,

As you’ve probably seen, Cambridge recently topped the list of Britain’s clone towns. There are still areas of the city where independent shops survive, but they are under pressure.  We’d like to get together to discuss ideas about how the Mill Road area can be promoted and improved for local residents, and to support and encourage independent traders.

At present the Grand Arcade and the Grafton Centre get most of the attention/money/support from the City Council and there is a real need to get the council to focus attention on the Mill Road area as well. There are things that the council could do which would make a great improvement.

We’ve been talking to some of the local traders to get their views but we want to get as many ideas and as much support as possible. We will be meeting with local councillors to talk about what the council can do to help the area, and we’d like to know what you think. We care about our area and together we can improve it.

A meeting has been arranged at Ross Street Community Centre [map] at 7.30pm on the 14th October. If you want to protect independent trading in Mill Road and the unique area and community that we have, please come along and give us your views and ideas. We’ll also be giving an update on what the Milly Card Scheme and the No Mill Road Tesco campaign have been up to over the past year.

We hope to see you on the 14th.

The Mill Road Society
No Mill Road Tesco Campaign Committee
Milly Card Scheme

Press release: Cambridge the capital of clone town Britain says New Economics Foundation

We are sad, but not surprised, to see that Cambridge is now the capital of clone town Britain.

Over the last few years we have all seen the way that supermarkets and chain stores have increased their grip on our small city, and the way that local, independent business have struggled with Cambridge’s sky-high rents.

Local businesses are part of the communities they serve, putting far more money back into them than the large chain stores, which drain money from local economies. Local businesses are often cheaper, too – a local greengrocers or market stall will sell fruit and vegetables at a fraction of the prices charged by supermarket convenience stores, for example, and often source food locally. Where there are thriving local businesses, everyone benefits; once they’ve gone, we can’t get them back.

Cambridge’s last MP championed the idea of an independent business zone but we have seen no progress on this interesting idea, and there seems to us to be a sad lack of official interest in stopping our city from losing even more of its character and the special benefits that local, independent businesses bring.

But thankfully this isn’t the whole story.

Many parts of Cambridge still have flourishing independent businesses and local residents that support them. On Mill Road, the annual Winter Fair is a wonderful reminder of the area’s diversity. On Mill Road, too, the Milly Card scheme shows how everyone benefits when local people and local business work together.

Last week, Cambridge made headlines as the home of the world’s best university. This week, it’s in first place on a list that no town wants to top. We hope that this embarrassment for our city will encourage officials and politicians to think seriously and creatively about ways to help local businesses and the communities that rely on them.

Council Licensing Policy Consultation

The council has launched a licensing policy consultation, which will include a review of the Mill Road cumulative impact zone (and other CIZs). The Council’s website states that “We need to keep these policies under review to assess whether they are needed any longer or whether they need expanding”.

The CIZ is part of the framework which governs alcohol licensing applications in the area, and aims to control the alcohol-related issues on Mill Road. Tesco’s application was recently refused, and applications from other retailers would undoubtedly face similar opposition given the presence of the CIZ at present.

If you want to comment, all the relevant information is on the City Council’s website.

The deadline for comments is 5 September 2010.

Responses must be e-mailed to or posted to Cambridge City Council, PO Box 700, Cambridge CB1 0JH.

Milly Card – Mill Road’s loyalty card scheme

The Milly Card is Mill Road’s loyalty card scheme. The scheme is run by The Mill Road Society, an off-shoot of the No Mill Road Tesco Campaign.

The Milly Card loyalty scheme exists to encourage people to use the shops and other services available on Mill Road, Cambridge, and the area around Mill Road.

The purpose of the scheme is to allow local residents to show their suport for local traders and for Mill Road traders to have the opportunity to respond generously. This scheme will encourage business profits and goodwill to circulate within our community for the benefit of all who live here.

Membership costs £2 per person. This gives a MILLY membership card, which, when presented to participating traders, will entitile the holder to special offers and discounts. The list of offers is available on the Milly Card website.

Use the Application Form to apply for a Milly Card.

For full details of the scheme, go to the Milly Card website at

The Milly stall in Hope St Yard for two hours on 16th May saw lots of interest and new sign-ups.

Formal decision notice on alcohol appeal

As we reported a month ago on February 25th, Tesco lost their attempt to sell booze on Mill Road – an area which is now a Cumulative Impact Zone (which creates an assumption against the granting of new licenses).

We have today (16th March 2010) received the formal decision notice from the City Council. Their e-mail reads as below:

Date: Tue, 16 Mar 2010 15:55:33 +0000
From: licensing at
Subject: Tesco, 163/167 Mill Road – Appeal decision

To all persons who made representations to the above application for a premises licence.

We are pleased to tell you that the hearing of Tesco’s appeal against the Council’s refusal to grant a Premises Licence for the Mill Road store concluded on Thursday 25th February 2010 and the appeal was dismissed.  This means that Tesco Stores in Mill Road is unable to sell alcohol.

Please find attached a copy of the formal written decision which we have now received from the Magistrates Court.

Licensing Team
Environmental Services
Cambridge City Council
01223 457879

Tesco LOSE their licensing application appeal

NEWS JUST IN: Tesco have LOST their attempt to sell booze on Mill Road – an area which is now a Cumulative Impact Zone (which creates an assumption against the granting of new licenses).

More details and commentary on this will follow in due course.

Tesco silently change their alcohol policy just before Mill Road licensing hearing begins

A member of the public has pointed out on his blog that Tesco have removed a key part of their alcohol policy, just before the Mill Road licensing hearing began.

The text that has been removed is:

“A flexible approach to licensing: We do not apply for licences in areas with known disorder issues and we review existing licences where evidence emerges that late-night alcohol sales are contributing to problem drinking.”

Below is the evidence of this sneaky change. Click on each screenshot below to see the full version and read the changed text.

Before: Tesco’s current Corporate Page promoting its “responsible” attitude to the sale of alcohol:

[Note that the yellow highlighting is merely present because Google’s cache highlights the search term used when finding the page.]

After: The same page before it was quoted as evidence against Tesco in their recent court action to be allowed to sell alcohol in one of its Cambridge stores in an area “with known disorder issues”: