Archive for March 2009

CEN issues apology for slur on the Campaign

The CEN has now published an apology following the slur on the Campaign yesterday (see previous news item), at the end of the original story.

“FURTHER to a picture caption published for a short period of time yesterday (Tuesday, March 24), we would like to make clear that the No Mill Road Tesco campaign was in no way involved in the attack on a pro-Tesco campaigner.

As outlined in the story, members of the group condemned the actions of the man responsible. We apologise for any confusion caused.

For more details about the campaign go to”

Events on Saturday reported in the CEN

On Saturday, we ran a successful and enjoyable, happy occasion, celebrating 500 days without Tesco on Mill Road. People from around the community came to enjoy entertainment, local produce and the sunshine.

However, the Cambridge Evening News has today reported on an unconnected event nearby. A senior editor has contacted us to state that they will print a formal retraction of parts of this story:

“As I said before on the telephone, we will print a clarification tomorrow which makes clear that, further to the picture caption printed on page 2 today, No Mill Road Tesco campaign was in no way involved in the attack and members condemned the man’s actions. It also apologises for any confusion caused.

Hope this is ok, apologies once again for any problems this has caused.

Best wishes,
John Deex, Deputy editor”

We also issued the following statement to Councillors yesterday:

“As you may be aware, there have been reports that two individuals were subjected to verbal and physical abuse on Saturday, while attempting to collect signatures for a pro-Tesco petition.

As we hope you understand, these incidents are in no way connected with the No Mill Road Tesco Campaign, and we would take very seriously any suggestion that they were. In the event that any such allegation is brought to our attention, we will request either concrete evidence for the claim, or a full and public retraction of it; if neither is forthcoming, it would be our intention to seek legal redress.

The No Mill Road Tesco Campaign condemns such behaviour unreservedly and would strongly urge those affected to contact the police, if they have not already done so.

We always have been, and remain, confident of our arguments – arguments that have been supported by Council and Planning Inspectorate decisions. We regard abuse and threats as the resort of those with no arguments on their side, or those who are incapable of making arguments.”

CEN article: “Anti-Tesco group celebrates milestone”

[Obviously we disagree with the suggestion made by an opponent in this article that NMRT is ‘killing business in the street’, a claim unsupported by any evidence; in fact new businesses have opened since the campaign against Tesco setting up on Mill Road began!

Note also that, as we explained to the CEN’s reporter at the time, the cheque for £3,352,000 represents what would have been the store’s turnover in this period, not its profit.]

A DAY of celebration was held by campaigners trying to stop Tesco from opening a shop in Cambridge’s Mill Road.

It is now 500 days since the store launched its bid to open a new branch in the former Wilco premises in the street, famous for its independent retailers.

To celebrate the delay, campaigners from the Say No to Mill Road Tesco group held a party outside the premises.

A giant cheque for more than £3 million was on show – the group’s estimate of what Tesco would have made at the store had it opened on time and the amount spent in existing shops instead.

The party took place as some traders hit back at the campaign for putting businesses and residents off from going to the street.

Joyce Charles, one of the petition organisers, who owns Rollers hair salon, said: “These protesters are killing business in the street and putting people off setting up shop here.”

The site has Class A1 retail planning permission and consent for signs and a cash machine. Despite not being allowed to build an external refrigeration unit, Tesco insists it plans to open a store, creating more than 20 jobs.

Cambridge Evening News, 23rd March 2009.

Celebrating 500 days without Tesco on Mill Road

People from across the community came to enjoy a pleasant afternoon outside the Wilco site.

Thanks to Rob for these pictures. The photo of the drawing was done by Claire Cooper of the farmers market.

New newsletter published

We’ve published a new newsletter!

Copies will be available at the event this weekend.

Celebrate 500 days

Do come on Saturday if you are free!

A film crew from ITN’s Tonight will be coming along also.

Volunteers are also needed – please get in touch if you can help staff the stall.


Public meeting on 11th March

Dear supporters,

We are holding a public meeting this Wednesday, 11th March, starting at 8.00. It will be held in Ross Street Community Centre.

The purpose of the meeting is to update everyone about Tesco’s latest moves, and to discuss what our next steps should be.

We are obviously continuing to work within the planning system, not to mention reminding councillors and Council officers that a Planning Inspector confirmed the councillors’ own judgement that Tesco cannot deliver safely to the Wilco site.

We also want to organise another public event, however, especially as the counter on our website shows we have so far kept Tesco away from Mill Road for nearly 500 days!

We would love to see anyone at the meeting who is interested in finding out what is happening, and who would like to help organise an event in the near future.

FAQs: Tesco backs down from second Public Inquiry

As you may know, Tesco lost the first Public Inquiry, which saw an independent government inspector uphold the decision of local Councillors to refuse planning permission on sound planning grounds.

Tesco have just pulled out of the Public Inquiry for their other planning application (which was also refused), because they obviously think they would lose that too.

So what happens now? Here are some frequently asked questions, and some answers:

Tesco say they can open without any further planning permission.

They can’t. Even if they used refrigeration units that required no external plant (which is what they are talking about), they’d still need air conditioning which would require external plant, and so would need planning approval. This just puts them back to square one of the planning process.

If Tesco could open a store without any further planning permission, why haven’t they done it already?

Last summer, they went to all the trouble and expense of making a planning application just for refrigeration and air conditioning. When they lost that, they went to the even greater trouble and expense of spending several months preparing for a public inquiry (which they have backed out of because they obviously think they would lose that too). Now they say that they can open exactly the same store without any permission at all. If that were really true, they would never have spent 9 months trying to get their equipment approved, when all this time they could have been trading.

Every time Tesco lose here, they try to spin it as a success by saying they are about to open anyway. They’ve been doing this for a year now, and they still haven’t managed to open a store on Mill Road.

When Tesco reapply for planning permission for air conditioning, won’t such a small application automatically be approved?

No, because they will have most of same problems that caused them to lose all their previous planning applications and the first inquiry. That’s because approval of the application would be necessary for the store to open. This means approving the application would cause them to start making deliveries, and they still plan to make deliveries in exactly the type of lorry that councillors and the planning inspector decided could not deliver safely to this site.

Can’t they just use smaller delivery vehicles?

They told the public inquiry that it would not be possible to run a store using only smaller vehicles. This is one of the reasons their appeal was turned down.

Tesco say the store would create 25 new jobs.

It won’t. It won’t even create the 20 extra jobs they were suggesting a year ago.

A Tesco Express here wouldn’t create extra jobs in the area. It would replace existing, full-time jobs, in the stores they put out of business, with part-time jobs. (Almost all jobs in Express stores are part-time, with only a couple of full-time posts).

The evidence from other towns tells us that the opening of a Tesco Express on Mill Road would force the closure of some of the existing shops, putting people out of work. If a Tesco Express opens, it is likely to take far more full-time jobs away from the area than it would create.

It’s not clear where Tesco have got the figure of 25 from anyway. In the original plans, they said that they didn’t know how many people they would need to employ. Then they said that the store with an extension would create 20 jobs. Now they are saying that a store without the extension will create 25 jobs. So, they are saying that a much smaller store will need more people working in it. This doesn’t seem very likely, but it looks like useful spin in the middle of a recession.

Won’t a Tesco Express be cheaper than existing shops on Mill Road?

No, it will be more expensive.

That’s because it doesn’t sell any of the Tesco Value range or have any of the cheaper product lines of the bigger Tesco stores. A shopping basket comparison between a Tesco Express and a larger Tesco in Dorset in November found that the Express was 19% more expensive than the larger Tesco. A comparison we did last year showed that the prices in the Cherry Hinton Tesco Express were 26% higher than in the Newmarket Road Tesco.

At the same time, we compared prices in the Cherry Hinton Tesco Express with prices in existing shops on Mill Road (Londis, Hilarys, the Co-op, Bangla Bazar, Yasrab and Balvs). The Mill Road shops were 11% cheaper than the Tesco Express.

If people don’t like Tesco, they can shop elsewhere

Unfortunately, they are unlikely to have that choice. The evidence from all over the country is that the opening of a Tesco Express puts existing, independent shops out of business. The House of Commons All-Party Small Shops Group Report says that the closure of independent stores where the big supermarket chains open convenience stores is “inevitable”. A Tesco Express is likely to force the closure of several existing shops on Mill Road.

If people chose to shop at a Tesco and other shops eventually close wouldn’t that just be fair competition?

No. Small, local independent retailers in an area like Mill Road inevitably struggle to compete with a company as powerful and aggressive as Tesco, however good they are. Supermarket giants like Tesco use a variety of means to draw customers away from other shops – some legal, some not. For example, Tesco and the other big supermarkets have enough economic power to enable them to sell staple goods at a loss as a way of drawing in new customers (‘loss leaders’).

Their wealth also enables them to run short-term voucher schemes in new stores, offering huge discounts until the viability of rival shops is threatened. Then the prices go up again. Obviously, local independent shops don’t have the resources to run similar schemes.

Less legally, Tesco was also one of four supermarkets involved in a cartel with dairy companies to fix the prices of milk, butter and cheese, according to the Office of Fair Trading last year. This isn’t the only ruling relating to Tesco’s anti-competitive practices the last couple of years: in September 2007, the Competition Commission found that Tesco had acted to block competition in Slough.

Fair competition requires something like a level playing field, not a situation where one player has the wealth and the determination to force everyone else off the pitch.