> WesternEye looks at Stokes Croft’s proposed supermarket, the progress of which has been (Sains)buried in red tape by campaigners, and wonders if a Lidl common sense an some Co-Operation migh make Aldi different [Sorry -ed]

Petitions, Squatters and Road blocking protests … Plans for a new Tesco store in Stokes Croft have caused quite a stir over the last few months.

There have been several attempts by Stokes Croft residents to stop Tesco opening a new Express store at the old Jesters site but the supermarket  has somehow, still managed to gain council giving permission to open the new store– which will be the fifth in a mile.

The ‘No Tesco in Stokes Croft’ group formed in February 2010 made up of Stokes Croft residents has repeatedly announced that ninety three percent of local people do not want a Tesco in Stokes Croft as it poses a threat to their ‘culturally distinct community’ and continue to fight against it.

Some may think the idea of a small local group trying to take on a big business like Tesco is futile but as Carla Denyer from the ‘No Tesco in Stokes Croft group’ states: “None of us are naïve enough to believe we’re capable of closing every Tesco in the country but we might as well attempt to fight the one on our own door step.”

A major objection raised by the group is to Tesco’s attempt to obtain a licence to sell alcohol from 8am – 11pm seven days a week. Locals insist it will only encourage the pre existing street drinking problems in the area. Although, one of the rare pro Tesco local residents (who does not wish to be named) has refuted this claim. “The street drinking is already a problem. There are several other shops in the area open 24/7. ‘The Best’, in particular will sell alcohol at any time, day or night. They’ll also make up the price on the spot depending on how drunk they think the customer is. There are already loads of street drinkers. The No Tesco group are just blaming Tesco for the problems that are already there. They’re wasting their time really, Tesco is too big a business to try and stop.”

So is Tesco really going to cause that much of a problem?  Are the residents ignoring the problems the area already has? Despite recent efforts to rejuvenate the area into ‘Bristol’s cultural quarter’ the area still suffering with it continues to suffer from alcohol fuelled crime. So will Tesco just serve to make this worse?

Carla Denyer from the No to Tesco in Stokes Croft group refutes these claims.  In response to the alcohol license she admits to the current street drinking is a problem but insists that:”Just because there’s an existing (street drinking) problem doesn’t mean it’s pointless to try and stop it getting worse. It’s a lot more difficult to change the business practices of a business that’s already open than to stop a new one opening.”

Responding to the criticisms, Tesco however has tried to minimise any problems by introducing minimum pricing rules in an attempt to reduce their potential threat to the street drinking problem after coming under scrutiny in the past for their cheap deals supposedly encouraging binge drinking culture. Carla however, argues that many Tesco stores do not adhere to their claims‘. From her own research in another local Tesco express she found super strength lager and cider for just a few pounds each. “You could be several times over the recommended daily limit for the price of a bus fare. These (the street drinkers) are alcoholics, not just binge drinkers. Price isn’t a factor to them; it’s the availability that’s the problem.”

At the time of going to press Tesco had lost their hearing to obtain an alcohol license but have recently launched a fresh appeal in order to reapply.

As well as the alcohol license the group have also raised numerous other complaints about how Tesco will negatively affect the area.  The traffic disruption caused by up to 52 deliveries per week  has also been a majorly contested topic for the group. Recently a flash mob demonstration took place in which group members formed a human square outside the shop front representing the amount of space the articulated delivery Lorries will take up during its several daily deliveries. Although pro Tesco campaigners have dismissed this “stunt”, the local resident said:  ”The group needs to look at the problems they’re causing not Tesco…they’re moaning about the lorries and the disruption they’ll cause but it’s fine for their demos to block the roads.”

Some pro Tesco supporters have tries to focus on the positive effects the new store may have, particularly the economical benefits. In this time of recession and unemployment, Tesco is one British supermarket chain that is doing well in the global market; with annual profits of 2.3billion pounds it holds its position as the 3rdlargest retailer in the world.  Tesco claims to create 173 jobs every week and could introduce some extra jobs into the area. So, whilst Tesco may not ‘fit in’ with Stokes Croft it may help with the fragile local economy and bring extra custom to the area.

Despite the group successfully warding off Tesco for a over a year their recent success at planning committee meetings mean Tesco will be able to open their store in the near future -minus an alcohol license.

Will the people of Stokes Croft continue to refuse the lure of big business and cheap deals? Or will Tesco eventually become part of the community? Only time will tell…

Kayleigh Jenkins