CEN article: Mill Road traders fear for the future

Small traders are devastated after Tesco vowed to open a store in Mill Road.

The supermarket giant dealt the blow when it made the shock announcement on Friday.

Home - Protest to save Mill Road from a Tesco store

Protest to save Mill Road from a Tesco store

Traders at some of the 13 grocery stores in the street say they now face a bleak future.

But Tesco chiefs have accused traders and campaigners of being “alarmist” and say the store is too small to have a massive impact on other stores.

Tesco will start work on transforming the former Wilco site in July – but face a summer of discontent from campaigners.

The controversial move comes despite massive protests, including a petition signed by more than 5,000 people, a 600-strong street march and more than 1,000 letters of objection.

The No Mill Road Tesco campaign claimed a victory in March when planners threw out a bid by Tesco for an extension to the store.

But it will now use the existing building and only needs planning permission for an air conditioning and freezer plant.

Small traders have been rocked by the news and fear for their livelihoods.

Mrs Magsooda Malik, who owns Hilary’s Greengrocers, said the move will devastate small businesses on the street famed for its unique shops.

She said: “It’s going to close a lot of shops. Everyone will be effected – the Londis, the Co-op and all the other stores. It is devastating for small shops.

“Tesco says they are going to create 20 jobs, but what about all the people who work in the shops that will close? We will keep fighting this to save our street.”

Mrs Vara, who owns Balv’s grocers and Balv’s hair salon, fears that her shops will go under.

She said: “We are very upset. It is going to have a bad effect on all of the shops in Mill Road. I have two shops, and if I have to close one down it will be the end for us here.

“We have been trading here for more than 20 years – longer than most of the shops.

“If we lose our business we wouldn’t know what to do. All we know is working here.

“Tesco say that them opening here won’t affect ethnic shops but we also rely on people buying other goods.

“We rely on trade from students and I think a lot of them will go to Tesco thinking it will be cheaper. The future does not look good.”

A Tesco spokesperson said: “Comments that many local shops will close if Tesco opens are unnecessarily alarmist and don’t contribute to a sensible debate on an issue which is of interest to local people.

“Tesco are proposing a small convenience store, less than half the size of the local Co-op. To suggest that a store of this size could lead to closure of the Co-op and a number of other shops is clearly untrue.

“There simply wouldn’t be enough stock on the shelves and enough space in the Tesco Express to accommodate that many customers.”

Cambridge Evening News, 12th May 2008

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