Sunday, April 24, 2011

more big six supermarket stuff

It was depressing to see and read recent news of the “Bristol Riot” over a new Tesco Express store. According to reports in The Guardian: “Police were left guarding a severely-damaged Tesco Express store in Stokes Croft as local residents complained that heavy-handed tactics had provoked a night of violent rioting. It seems that police were responding to reports that petrol bombs were being assembled in a squat opposite the new store and were acting because of the “real threat posed to the local community”. I obviously don’t know if this was true or not and I don’t condone violence in any circumstances but, in some ways, I’m not at that surprised by the turn of events (note: local campaigners have made it perfectly clear that they are against any form of violence and I’ve read a categorical denial from the four squatters who were occupying the building at the time). People feel completely powerless against the financial might of the big-six supermarket.
The sad fact is that it’s REALLY easy for ANYONE to get a change of use for such stores (Tesco’s agents made the original change of use application without having to mention Tesco’s name). Indeed, under current planning legislation, you don’t even need planning permission these days to obtain any change of use to A1 shop classification (or post offices, funeral directors, dry cleaners, travel agents for that matter!) from any other “A class” establishment (eg. banks, building societies, betting offices, restaurants, cafes, public houses, wine bars, hot food takeaways etc). The only planning application that a supermarket might need to submit (depending on the store’s location) would be for a new shopfront and/or signage – by which time the deal is already done. In Bristol, Tesco alone already has SIX stores within half-a-mile of the city centre and FIFTEEN within a two-mile radius of the city. We’re about to have a Co-op Express (or whatever it calls itself) open here on North Street in Southville/Bedminster – approximately 70m from a Tesco Express. Apparently, the Co-op is promising us that it will have its own in-house bakery. Just brilliant – don’t they know we already have FOUR bakers within 350m? Absolutely ludicrous.
Of course, this is all set alongside the “support” for local communities from our beloved national politicians. Eric Pickles, Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, has stated:
“For far too long local people have had too little say over a planning system that has imposed bureaucratic decisions by distant officials in Whitehall and the town hall. We need to change things so there is more people-planning and less politician-planning, so there is more direct democracy and less bureaucracy in the system. These reforms will become the building blocks of the Big Society.”
Greg Clark, Minister for Planning and Decentralisation, clearly agrees:
“Most people love where they live, yet the planning system has given them almost no say on how their neighbourhood develops. The Coalition Government will revolutionise the planning process by taking power away from officials and putting it into the hands of those who know most about their neighbourhood - local people themselves. This will be a huge opportunity for communities to exercise genuine influence over what their home town should look like in the future. It will create the freedom and the incentives for those places that want to grow, to do so, and to reap the benefits.“
I’ve previously expressed my frustrations and fears about the big-six supermarkets taking over our local communities but, frankly, they’ll continue to do so unless some form of planning legislation is introduced to limit their numbers – but, even now, you feel it’s too late.
Be afraid. Be very afraid!


bigdaddystevieB said...

... I suppose other potential planning stuff that supermarkets might have to obtain permission for could be related to air conditioning or opening hours. But, rest assured, their planning experts would be able to resolve such matters, whatever the cost!!

just Gai said...

They do also need to apply for an alcohol licence but that doesn't seem to pose a problem.

The future does appear very bleak but it's worth noting that we have the ultimate weapon in our control - our custom. If enough of us just stopped shopping in supermakets, or at the very least reduced the number of our visits or the size of our baskets, then we could turn the tide.

Witness the growth of fair trade goods, free range eggs and organic produce. It can be done.