Archive for 19th October 2007

Local Secrets – ‘No Tesco on Mill Road’

This article below was published in Local Secrets on 19th October 2007.

In the next of our City Viewpoints features local correspondent Rob Coe defends Mill Road’s right to resist the ‘Tescopoly’ of our towns and cities.

Only in the last few weeks was it confirmed that Tesco wanted to move into the old Wilco site on Mill Road.

TescopolyFor Mill Road, read the Haight-Ashbury, Camden Town or Greenwich Village: a bohemian treasure and a microcosm of 21st Century British life. In addition to the traditional British independent retailers the road is also a vital resource for immigrant and international students and a tourist attraction of its own. On one of the country’s longest shopping streets, its possible to buy anything from an abacus to a xylophone, with restaurants that span the world from Brazil to Bangladesh and Turkey to Thailand side by side.

Tesco is a threat to its unique charms, damaging local traders and using its corporate muscle to create a bland high street. People come from near and far to Mill Road because of its very vibrancy. But if the chains move in it will lose its identity and vitality. This means those people will no longer have a reason to come here. Every little certainly doesn’t help.

Safety of all road users is another big worry. The increased traffic Tesco will produce doesn’t sit nicely with the City Council’s drive to reduce car usage within the ring road and its constant deliveries will unavoidably contribute to congestion out of all proportion to its size. Articulated lorries unloading out the front and limited parking space for customers is completely unacceptable in terms of noise, congestion and road safety.

Opposition to Tesco has brought out the best in Mill Road. The outpouring of love for Mill Road has been awe inspiring. There has been an unprecedented campaign against the spectre of Tesco. The action group has launched a high profile guerrilla marketing campaign coordinating letter writing, media appearances, a Facebook site and a petition amongst other measures.

If we can take this opportunity to foster something positive in our area beyond just a defensive response we can improve our quality of life, our local resources and get that feeling that we live in a real community – something that sadly is often in short supply.

Tesco has been beaten before on Unthank Road in Norwich, a similar neighbourhood to Cambridge threatened by the retail giant’s incessant development.

Mill Road is a real local secret. Tesco is not.

The deadline for objections to the planning applications has been extended by the City Council by one week to Friday 19 October. Details of how to oppose these plans and get involved with the campaign are at

Published in Local Secrets, 19th October 2007.

Student media coverage: Post strike delays Tesco

The article below was published by Varsity, one of the two student newspapers at the University of Cambridge.

Postal strike buys time for Mill Road protesters as deadline is extended

Campaigners against the proposed construction of a Tesco supermarket on Mill Road have received unexpected help from the postal strike this week. Cambridge City Council announced that the deadline for voicing objections against the build will be extended by one week to allow for sluggish rates of delivery.

Last Friday, a petition of over 2,250 signatures was delivered to the Council’s Planning Department by members of the No Mill Road Tesco Campaign and their sister Facebook group, Let’s Turn Mill Road into Chains Free Zone.

Many cash strapped students are welcoming proposals to open a branch of Tesco’s in the city centre, but protestors claim that the new store would threaten the independent food stores for which the area is famous. “Mill Road is totally unique in Cambridge in the range of locally run food shops, and has most of the speciality shops in Cambridge such as those for Chinese, Korean, Indian and Arabian foods. Tesco invades all these markets with its own organic and specialty brands,” says Mike Riste, an Emma student who lives near Mill Road. “It seems totally unnecessary to have another supermarket in the locality.”

Kevin Tarbit of Mill Road’s Andrew Northrop Butchers told Varsity that “the community spirit will be lost if this goes ahead, and I think it will as Tesco are such a force to be reckoned with. Tesco are greedy, unfair competition and have too much of a monopoly.”

Some local shopkeepers still appear to be unconcerned by the plans. Philippa Dennis, who owns the Limoncello delicatessen directly opposite the proposed Tesco site, says, “I don’t really see Tesco as a huge problem. We get a lot of business here so we’re not worried.”

The future of the proposed Mill Road Tesco will be determined when the council’s Planning Committee meets on November 1. Jim Jepps, a campaigner for the No Mill Road Tesco group, is optimistic about the protestors’ chances of preventing the new store being built. “Our impression is that Tesco are getting worried,” he told Varsity. “They may well not go ahead as they are getting so much bad press out of it. The point is you can go to a Tesco anywhere, but there’s only one Mill Road.”

Varsity, 19th October 2007