CEN article: Tesco on back foot over opening date

By Laura Jean Morris

Cambridge Crier, 14th December 2007

TESCO has been left red-faced this week after claiming it knew nothing of a 5,000-signature petition against its plans to open a Mill Road store.

A letter from the supermarket giant sent to a campaigner fighting plans for the controversial Tesco Express outlet, also said it would be opening its doors on January 25.

The letter was sent by a customer services executive on behalf of Tesco’s chief executive, Sir Terry Leahy.

However, no official opening date for the store, on the former Wilco site, has been set. Tesco has permission to revamp the existing site but is still in the process of applying for planning permission to extend it. It also wants to put up new signage and install a cash machine.

Sonia Cooter, from the campaign group No To Mill Road Tesco, said: “I was absolutely gobsmacked when I read the letter.

“At best it is incompetence and at worst arrogance and a total disregard to planning policy.”

The campaigners have been fighting against the branch opening, organising the 5,000-strong petition which was presented to Cambridge City Council, as well as a march in November which attracted more than 600 people.

A decision regarding the store’s extension is set to be made by the council in the new year.

The letter, sent in response to a complaint by one of the campaigners to Sir Terry Leahy, said “We will be opening a Tesco Express store in Mill Road, Cambridge on 25th January, 2008.

“We have no knowledge, as yet, of a petition having been made, nor of so many objections having been lodged, as planning permission has already been granted for this store.

“In addition, if people have taken the trouble to march in protest against such a small Tesco store opening, then clearly they feel very strongly about this issue, and this is something that we need to look into.”

A spokesman for Tesco, working on the local development of the store, conceded the letter was sent in error.

The spokesman said: “Unfortunately, the people who deal with this project on a day-to-day basis were not contacted.

“Some of the information that was included in this response from our customer service department is incorrect.

“As a company we receive a vast amount of correspondence and on occasion some letters do not get passed to the relevant person. We apologise that this response was sent out and would like to take this opportunity clarify some of the inaccurate information.

“We do not have an opening date for the store as the application has not yet gone to committee.

“We are aware there are elements of local opposition and we have met with their representatives. As a company we are always committed to meeting with the public.”

Ms Cooter said: “I am obviously pleased that Tesco has clarified the situation as regards the incorrect information in the letter.

“However, our fight does not end here. We do not want this store.”

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