1 September 2010

Tesco in the Times

In the past, Tescowatch has been criticised as being mindlessly opposed to Tesco - usually on the grounds of elitism and contempt for the concerns of people on a restricted budget.

There is no truth in this accusation; but it is true that we do not trust Tesco to act in the best interests of the community. Further evidence for this mistrust is given in the Times newspaper of Tuesday 31st August in an article entitled "Tesco's secret shop front" on page 31. The Times operates behind a paywall, so you would have to pay to read this article online. However, the same story was covered in The Herald, which does not operate a paywall, so you can read it by clicking here.

The town of Linwood in Scotland has a town centre composed of retail and community facilities.  In 2001 this centre was bought by Balmore Properties, but fell into decline over sucessive years.  Retailers were evicted, shops not relet and requests for lease extensions refused. Balmore refused to discuss the derelict shops with local groups and the centre became a magnet for antisocial behaviour.

Then Tesco bought the centre and promised a multi-million-pound superstore, new retail premises, new health centre and a library – all paid for by themselves.

Naturally, the residents  were delighted  . . . but they were less delighted when they found out that Balmore had been a front company acting on behalf of Tesco; and so Tesco had been responsible for running down the centre for years before deciding to develop it.

Now, what can we infer from this ?  Clearly, that Tesco will act ruthlessly to maximise profit without consideration for the community in which it is embedded.  But what about the Seaton context ?

Linwood has a population of about 9,000 and will receive :
* A new community library
* A new community centre to replace the Tweedie Hall
* Potential relocation and upgrading of Linwood Health Centre
* New retail units for businesses currently operating in the centre, designed in a modern shopping mall format
* Design features to minimise the risk of crime in the local area.

Seaton has a population of 7,500 - rising to 12,500 if we include the surrounding villages making up the market town area.  What do we get ?
*  Loss of the Holiday Village, providing 140 full-time jobs and 400 tourist beds with 80% occupancy bringing  over £9 million into the area every year.
*  Loss of the Youth Club, with £80,000 cash (about 10% of the cost) to replace it -
*  A contribution of £1.75 million towards a new Visitors Centre, which will be half the size specified in the original consultants' report
*  £45,000 towards the salary of Town Manager
*  Continuous traffic congestion - not only during construction, but also afterwards.
*  Increased flood risk for the Harbour Road area.

Some people may point to houses and other buildings to be built on the site; but remember that Tesco are not going to build these: they will be selling the land on to someone else who may build them, or may build something else.

Linwood people have had their mouths stopped with Tesco gold - and who shall blame them for swallowing it.  But, there is precious little gold for Seatonians, so we might as well spit it straight back into the Tesco corporate face.

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