Archive for 17th January 2008

TCS articles: Student media coverage

Two articles in ‘The Cambridge Student’, 17th January 2008:

Mill Road Tesco decision expected

The Cambridge City Council’s East Area Committee will meet today to deliberate on Tesco’s application to open a new store on Mill Road. The application has caused outcry amongst Mill Road residents, many of whom fear that such a store would cause an increase in congestion and noise in the area and threaten small local shops. The ‘No Mill Road Tesco’ Campaign has collected more than 5200 signatures.

Tesco: convenience, at what price?

Alice Bloch argues that only consumers have the power to halt the rise and rise of ‘Tescopoly’

Alice Bloch, King’s

Is there anything good about Tesco? It has a 30% share of the UK grocery market, doesn’t think twice about crushing small businesses, and one in seven pounds spent in Britain goes straight into its pockets. And that’s before we even start on its condescending advertising campaign this Christmas.

Yet Tesco ploughs down a one-way high-street to uniformity and market monopoly. Last week, planning officers at Cambridge City Council recommended the approval of a store on Mill Road, perhaps the city’s last bastion of independent retailers and long-nurtured diversity.

Tesco was delighted, saying ‘the new store will provide more convenience food choice that can help to keep people shopping locally’. By this incredible feat of reasoning, if I today purchase a DVD in Borders, I am apparently shopping locally. Well, we’re all shopping locally all the time then – lucky us! Of course, this is far from true and misconceptions must be addressed.

By disliking Tesco, I could be accused of being snobby, and belittling those who cannot shop at independent butchers, bakers and grocers. Yet this is not the case. I am as much opposed to the ‘oh-so-trendy-faux-bohemian-middle-class-Jamie-Oliver-loving-mother-en-route-to-yoga’ organic lifestyle shop epidemic in this country as I am to Tesco. Neither is ideal.

But it is Tesco, along with other supermarkets, that forces independent retailers to raise their prices by opening stores in a flurry of aggressive price-cutting.

It’s not even the case that Tesco always saves us money – research by the New Economics Foundation showed that fresh produce in street markets was on average 30% cheaper than at supermarkets. In 2000, the Department of Health recommended that local authorities discourage the provision of new supermarkets over 1000 square metres outside existing town centres in recognition of the value of local shops to low income households.

So much for Tesco being the social entrepreneur that deluded apologists portray it to be. As Corporate Watch notes, Tesco exploits ‘cash-poor, time-poor’ shoppers. The problem is, nobody dares say this because we all shop there. As its CEO says, ‘we’re just giving customers what they want’. This seems infallible, but is it really true?

After all, do we really want identical high streets, for British producers to lose out, or for our children to not understand what seasonal produce is?

It is time that we asked ourselves what ‘convenience’ really means, and whether we are prepared to sacrifice the diversity and integrity of our communities.

This, however, rests on the hope that we are not all as apathetic as the media claims. Tesco may exist on Mill Road if Councillors decide it, but if consumers don’t shop there, it will fail.

Still, as a generation raised in the age of super consumerism and endless short-term gratification, do students of today have the power to resist their autopilot tendencies? This challenge lies not with the supermarkets but with ourselves.

Alice Bloch is a member of SocDocSoc and third year SPS student.

TESCO fast facts:

  • Tesco was founded in 1924 by Jack Cohen
  • 2316 stores in 14 countries
  • 450,000 employees
  • World’s biggest online store
  • Expanded from groceries to clothing, personal finance, telecoms and fuel

CEN article: Shock in store over Tesco bid

This is the version of the article printed in the Cambridge Evening News on 17th January 2008, and is similar but more extensive than the online-only version published the night before (on the 16th January).

by Rachel Extance, Local Government Correspondent

CAMPAIGNERS against plans for a Tesco store in Cambridge’s Mill Road have been given a last-minute stay of execution.

Planning chiefs at Cambridge City Council have taken the scheme off the table for Thursday night’s east area committee after deciding the report did not go into the issues in enough detail.

The decision to postpone came shortly before 5pm last night, taking campaigners and Tesco by surprise.

The decision has only just been made – taking campaigners and the supermarket giant by surprise.

Home - Mill Road campaignersTesco has applied for permission to extend the former Wilco building in Mill Road and install new signs and a cash machine to create an Express store.

Planning officers had recommended the plans for approval despite a massive public backlash against the idea.

More than 5,000 people have signed a petition against the plans, and more than 1,100 have written letters of objection.

Campaigners were expected to turn out in force to protest at Thursday’s council meeting which had been booked into a larger venue – St Philip’s Church in Mill Road – to make room for the large numbers of people expected.

But now the council has decided the planning reports were “not comprehensive” enough and said the applications will be debated another day.

The No Mill Road Tesco campaign submitted a complaint on Tuesday to the council saying the report on the extension was “substantially incomplete”.

A spokesman for the campaign said: “We are glad that the council have taken our concerns seriously with regard to the incomplete planners’ report and we are confident that when it does come before the councillors, they will acknowledge the strength of public opinion and the strong planning grounds for refusing the applications. We are still confident the applications will be turned down.”

Coun Ben Bradnack, who represents Petersfield, had written to say that detailed objections did not “benefit from detailed answers within the body of the report” and raised issues of refuse arrangements, road safety and car and Cycle parking.

Peter Carter, principal development control manager for the city council, said: “We just don’t think the report is comprehensive enough.

There are a whole series of issues involved. We looked at it earlier in he week and were prepared to run with it, we’ve looked at it again and decided we would prefer not to run with it.”

He said officers would discuss with committee chairman Coun John Durrant when the issue would next be approached.

Michael Kissman, corporate affairs manager for Tesco, said: “We are surprised and will look at the reasons. We do think we’ve still got a strong application in for the signage, cash machine and storage extension.”

Cambridge Evening News, 17th January 2008, printed edition