Tag Archives: Tesco

No Tesco in Stokes Croft fundraising party – Chance to win a Banksy!

Here (above left) is breakfast, a sourdough loaf from the Stokes Croft pop-up bakery (above right), just across the road from the famously-unwanted Tesco.

“A year ago these streets were the scene of riots following the bitterly opposed opening of a Tesco store. Twelve months on, Stokes Croft, Bristol’s most bohemian neighbourhood, is booming,” wrote Stephen Morris in the Guardian earlier this week.

In a debate in parliament on 17 January 2012, Stephen Williams MP said:

“I am probably the only Member in the Chamber who has experienced a riot in his constituency caused by the opening of a branch of Tesco. It took place over the Easter and royal wedding bank holidays in April last year. I certainly do not condone the antics of those constituents, but I very much share their frustration. Large businesses do not work with the grain of local opinion.”

Here’s some background, briefly: Our No Tesco in Stokes Croft campaign, began February 2010 after Tesco arrived in Stokes Croft by stealth.

Against all odds, we took our legal battle as far we could – to judicial review.

We lost – our court costs are £2,126.50.

We are having a fundraising party on Friday 13 April at 7.30 pm with music, poetry and street theatre at 35 Jamaica Street, Bristol BS2 8JP. Join the group on Facebook.


Buy a limited-edition bone china “I Paid The Fine” mug produced by The People’s Republic of Stokes Croft, and be part of social history.

Twelve of the 250 mugs will be accompanied by one of the original Banksy posters donated by the graffiti artist as a “commemorative souvenir poster.”

Every campaign, whether you win or lose, is worth its weight in gold for it raises awareness of the issues.

I will be part of a round-table discussion – The High Street Fights Back – at the Natural Product Show this Sunday with campaigning journalist and author, Joanna Blythman.

This month, Tesco withdrew its planning application from Herne in Kent after huge local protest.

Thus, I, like my fellow campaigners, remain

relentlessly optimistic.

STOP PRESS 23 April 2012: Last Mug Sold!

Trans fats are not food so why do we eat them?

I like fat. Butter, cream, olive oil.

But trans fats give fat a bad name.

Artificial trans fats are made by an industrial process of hardening, or “hydrogenating”, oil.

Trans fats are in food – but they are not food.

Trans fat is basically candle wax made from vegetable oil.

The food industrialists use it because it is a cheap filler, prolongs shelf life and has useful cosmetic attributes i.e. it can make a cake look light and fluffy.

As you can imagine, eating candle wax is not good for you: trans fats are toxic and clog up arteries.

There is plenty of scientific evidence to show trans fats are a huge health risk.

Based on the Precautionary Principle (why take an unnecessary risk?), organic standards have always banned trans fats.

Several enlightened countries, as well as New York City, Seattle and the state of California have now also banned them.

The Independent recently asked: why are trans fats still legal in the UK?

Trans fats may appear on a packet as: shortening; hydrogenated vegetable oils; HVO; partially hydrogenated vegetable oils; PHVO.

It’s up to the trans fats manufacturers how to describe trans fats; there are no regulations on terminology.

Dr Alex Richardson, author of They Are What You Feed Them and founder-director of the charity, Food and Behaviour Research, says:

“Good foods make bad commodities; good commodities make bad food.”

What a great quote – sums up our current food crisis…

I have been hanging on to this cutting from The Big Issue since 2008.

It’s an article by Maggie Stanfield, the author of Trans Fat: The Time Bomb in your Food (Souvenir Press).   See the book cover at top of this post.

According to Maggie Stanfield, eight of the big supermarkets said in January 2007 they would remove all trans fats from their own brand ranges. “Some managed it. Others didn’t.”

According to the Independent, Marks & Spencer, Waitrose and the Co-operative own-brands are now trans-fat free. And, I believe, Sainsbury’s.

In 2010, the National Health Service watchdog, Nice, called for a total ban but instead we got more paper pledges:  in March 2011, McDonald’s, Pizza Hut and KFC (and many more) promised to remove artificial trans fats by the end of this year. So did Tesco and Asda.

They promised. By the end of 2011.

What do you think? Can we trust ‘em?

Peaceful No Tesco Tea Party


Well, the No Tesco Tea Party has to be one of the most fun, friendly, heart-filled

musical protests I have ever been on.

Here’s a delightful news item from ITV: over a minute of dancing protest.

But it was also possibly the most stressful because – post-riot – it wasn’t just a matter of ringing up our local bobby.

Instead, we were invited to respectful, professional meetings with Silver and Bronze commanders, who supported our right for a peaceful protest but were thinking worst-case scenarios, and asking: how would we deal with them?

I realised the police, like the medical profession, are (bless ‘em) fear-driven.

So, for a few weeks leading up to the No Tesco Tea Party I felt the weight of responsibility. Dreamed of police on horseback bursting through my front door. Worried about upsetting local charities such as Relate and the Salvation Army who’d been damaged in the riots. Angsted about offending rock throwers, too.

(Rock throwing is not my style but anyone caught-up in those two crazy riot nights might need support so please contact BristolArresteeSupport@Riseup.net, mentioned in June’s edition of The Autonomist.

And anyone with unanswered questions about the Stokes Croft disturbances, please sign the petition asking Bristol City Council for a public inquiry.)

Our protest took place in front of Tesco in Stokes Croft. I was glad to talk with Tesco managers because this campaign is not against supermarket employees.

It’s against supermarkets destroying communities in their single-minded drive for market shares.

The truth is I am a communicator.

I find enemy positions deeply unhelpful. I would rather build bridges.

Listen, we are all victims of the same soulless system that puts profit before people. So let’s find our common humanity and work together for a better world.

When Monday 13 June dawned – bright sunshine after Sunday’s torrential rain – I felt confident. Our protest would be – as all our protests have always been – peaceful.

And it was.

I was moved by the joy and the dancing

and the homemade cakes

and cucumber sandwiches (note Princess Diana tea-tray)


and anti-Tesco knitting protestor.

I was moved by Mark who did not agree with our campaign but became a volunteer peace marshall because he supported our right to a peaceful protest.

For goodness sake, there is disagreement even when you are on “the same side”. So, shaking hands with Richard whom I had met online when our political views clashed made me happy: this is what community is all about.

The No Tesco in Mill Road campaigners had come all the way from Cambridge to join our protest. Thank you!

Our Tea Party protest was to create awareness for our appeal for a judicial review.

Our appeal was heard on Wednesday 15 June in Cardiff.

And we won.

Thanks to People’s Republic of Stokes Croft, Jake and peace marshalls

and People’s Supermarket for donating free food.

O and here’s one of me, thanks to Nadia of GRO-FUN.

Tesco re-opens and elderflower cordial

After being “trashed” in the early hours of Good Friday 22 April, Tesco re-opened on the 24 May following a neighbourhood meeting the night before.

Monday 23 May 6.30pm: St Paul’s Unlimited neighbourhood meeting.

This excellent Guardian feature gives some background to the intensity of emotion present.

People with complaints against the police (“Why was extreme force used? Why was my arm broken by thugs in police uniform and three dogs attacked me?” asked one man).

The police was represented by Chief Superintendent, John Stratford, who listened well. Clearly, he was not a riot-type with batons and adrenaline-pumping, lashing-out fear.

Someone in the audience who’d been a policeman for 30 years – now an artist with a studio in Stokes Croft – said he was holding a riot shield in the St Paul’s 1981 riot. And scared.

A woman describing herself as a “lone voice” showed support for Tesco. Sadly, she mixed-up the riot with the campaign to stop Tesco opening. Not true.


As Ashley ward’s first Green Party councillor, Gus Hoyt, (pictured) has said the media has framed the debate: Against the riot = For Tesco. It’s more bigger-picture than that and why he is calling for independent public inquiry.

At the meeting, I heard about a move to make it harder for squatters to squat legally.

Harder for people with no home – and no hope of a home – to make a temporary home in one lying empty.

Homes lying empty, as I learnt at the meeting, so they can increase in value for their owner. Such as Westmoreland House.  “A death trap” someone called it.

One of the Bristol City Council representatives told us the council had asked the government for retail classification A1 to be changed. Currently the same classification applies to both a supermarket chain and a one-off local shop.

Eric Pickles, the Conservative minister, replied with no. “…Not its role to restrict competition.”

Ha. It’s supermarkets that restrict competition. They buy cheap, sell cheap. They only need to take a small percentage of a local shop’s business to sink it.

The profit a small shop makes is tiny.

But is economic power the only measure of success? Local independent shops create community. They support wholesalers and the local economy.

Money spent locally is worth more locally than when it is spent in a supermarket because it is recycled locally.

However, it does not take long for local shops to wither. Look at Tesco on Golden Hill. A row of small shops closed and Tesco’s promises broken: not to open on a Sunday; not to have a cafe.

Head of Property Communications, Michael Kissman, arrived late at the neighbourhood meeting.

Pity. He did not hear the majority of the Stokes Croft audience eloquently voice  love for their local community – without a Tesco, thank you.

(One said: “We don’t want Tesco. And we don’t want the police protecting Tesco.”)

However Tesco’s Michael Kissman did hear people after the meeting asking him for Tesco’s support for impoverished local groups.

And at least I got an answer to my question: Where did the figure of 3,000 people, that Tesco claimed walked through Tesco, Cheltenham Road in Stokes Croft store in its first weeks of trading, come from?

Answering my question via the chair, Tesco’s Michael Kissman, said these 3,000 customers were, in fact: “3,000 transactions”. O.

No mention was made at the neighbourhood meeting of Tesco reopening the following morning. But open it did at 7 am on the 24 May.

Lot of media interest, I gave three interviews that day, including to Radio Bristol (1:40 mins in, after Michael Kissman, who was given the final word.)

Tesco claimed 400 customers came on its first day of opening but hmmnnnnn.

Looked pretty empty when I took the pic at 3pm.

Tesco can afford to stay half-empty (like the Tesco five minutes away in the Gloucester Road), playing the waiting game while local shops close.

On a more positive note, there may be another chance to review the planning process concerning Tesco’s traffic impact on Cheltenham Road. The  No Tesco in Stokes Croft campaign has won the right to appeal against the decision to not grant a Judicial Review (the rejection came coincidentally after Good Friday).

We plan a fluffy good-humoured self-contained lawful protest in front of Tesco’s before we set off on Wednesday 15 June for the 2 pm hearing in Cardiff .

And the Stokes Croft People’s Supermarket readies itself in the wings.

I’ll drink a glass of homemade foraged elderflower cordial to that.

Homemade elderflower cordial

A revelation. I did not realise how easy it is to make.

You soak the elderflower blossom in water with sugar for two days, covered with a lid. Then strain through muslin or a sieve. Then pour into clean bottles.

Second revelation: how the scent fills a room. Light fresh notes, as I snip the blossoms off their stems into a vat of hot sugared water.

Elderflower blossom is plentiful now.

Mike picked a plastic bag-full.

We added two pots of organic pear preserve  – as the Elemental Sanctuary’s Carole Fofana advised. I have some brown muscavado sugar. About 500g.

We estimate six pints of water. Mounds of elderflower blossom take up most of the room in the pan. I reckon our version has more blossom and less sugar than most recipes (hence its deliciousness).

The only technical bit is straining it through a sieve covered with muslin (organic muslin £2 from Born).

For more precision, see the Self-Sufficient-ish elderflower cordial recipe.

Lemon juice will preserve it but requires more sugar to sweeten the taste. We do not use lemons (or citric acid) or lots of sugar, and the cordial is not too sweet and has the heady taste of nature.

Third revelation:  homemade elderflower cordial tastes amazing.

I am drinking some now.

It tastes how elderflower blossom smells. And somehow feels substantial – nourishing.

Elderflowers are nutrient-rich and immune-boosting.

Not nutrients added artificially, or over-processed thus inneffective.

I often dream of going into a bar and ordering a health-giving revitalising drink.

Homemade elderflower cordial is that dream-drink: it has natural vitality.

(To think Coca-Cola had the cheek to call itself: The Real Thing).

I glimpse the satisfaction of foraging. It’s unmediated.

Nothing between me and something growing on a tree.

Tesco disturbed in Stokes Croft

I have been campaigning since February 2010 for No Tesco in Stokes Croft so imagine my mixed feelings when I woke up on Good Friday to hear the newly-opened supermarket had been “trashed”.

Alerted by friends in Stokes Croft, my first response was to gather information, with a Twitter search leading to several eye-witness accounts.

This blog by Neurobonkers.com described the dramatic effect of 160 riot police turning up on the streets – the tone bemused rather than partisan.

While giving a sense of folly on both sides, this blog by Oli Connor also questions the role of riot police in aggravating tension.

Jonathan Taphouse tells the story behind his photographs in the Guardian, and some turning-point moments.

Twitter helped me spot churnalism in action -the newspapers that repeated almost verbatim the police’s (understandly one-sided) press release, while this blog sums up the spin.

I was obsessed with gathering information and analysing its angles – media studies in action.

I wanted to piece it all together: what happened on the 21 April?

A volatile situation from the word go: a warm April night at the start of a bank holiday in a busy social area of the city.

Riot police turn up at 9 pm, some on horseback, some with dogs, and – according to Green councillor candidate, Gus Hoyt, on his way home – at least three with guns, one directing traffic with the gun, its holster strapped to his leg (Gus asked, “Is it real?” and “Of course it is, mate, where have you been living?” said the armed policeman).

The police raided Telepathic Heights, the squat opposite the newly-opened supermarket in Stokes Croft, looking for alleged petrol bombs.

(Surely a house squatted is better than left empty?).

This video includes interviews with squatters and eye-witness onlookers. As one pointed out, if you were conducting a drugs raid, you would send in uniformed police, and explain the situation to the neighbours.

But nothing was explained. The police operation seemed disproportionate and unnecessary military. I feel sorry for local police because this operation counters their good work in the community.

The drama was dramatically-lit by the searchlight from the police helicopter – its noise drew locals on to the streets to see what was happening.

Some reacted with the same fear-fight knee-jerk response that must affect the police; threatened, tribal, flooded with adrenaline.

Some of my fellow No Tesco campaigning friends who lived on a nearby street (which ended up kettled by riot police) tried to stop onlookers from grabbing stones from a skip and building barricades.

How quickly a scene turns raw. A push, a shove, a bottle thrown. The police have methods to deal with affray and are allowed to use force.

This video that shows Stokes Croft locals trying to quell the fight reaction from people feeling threatened.

“Stay calm and film everything. Do not instigate,” repeats a strong voice. Wise words.

The police left an empty police van outside Tesco and departed. That’s when a group of people spontaneously starting dismantling Tesco and smashing its windows. As one blogger reported: “The Tesco store – the very one the police operation had supposedly been set up to protect – had its front trashed.”

I am scared by violence and abhore it. I believe the ends do not justify the means. The means – the way we do things – is vital. We must create a peaceful society by enacting it.

Yet history tells us (the 1831 Bristol riots for vote reform, votes for women, the poll tax) that sometimes it takes violence from the voiceless to be heard. And damn it, violence is news – look at the media coverage that that night got.

Some violence is misplaced fighter-energy. I was in Stokes Croft in the early hours of 29 April, a week after the Tesco riot.

Eye-witnesses present on both nights told me that the police were calmer and less-reactive the second time, despite opportunistic bottle-throwing.

Stokes Croft had become – in a week – a magnet for fight-action. As I walked towards the epicentre, guided by the police helicopter’s beam, several masked and hooded lads passed me.

“Put the bin down, Bin Man!” shouted one of my fellow campaigners. The youth carrying the wheelie recycling bin put it down and we clapped to reinforce good behaviour.

Considering how hard-won the battle was for recycling, I would hate recycled bottles to come into disrepute as potential weapons.

Talking about recycling: Tesco has asked councils to remove their bins from Tesco car parks, depriving local councils of recycling revenue.

Tesco – which recently made profits of £3.8 billion – is taking the bins in-house.

A Tesco may be a convenient, clean shop but it also a powerful multinational that puts profit before everything. It may be staffed by good people but its policies are destroying small farms and the land, small businesses and local communities – while, according to UK Uncut, evading tax.

“If you don’t like Tesco, don’t shop there. Then they will close down,” some say.

But it is not that simple.

Tesco can afford to run its shops at a loss while local businesses start to fail. It’s hard to boycott Tesco if there are only a few food shops left.

In our unofficial role as peacekeepers last Friday we walked round the back of Tesco to see if the security guards were alright. On that surreal night of unexpected scenes at every street corner, we chatted through the steel fence. There was banter and good wishes expressed – this battle was not personal.

We walked round to Cheltenham Road.

Road block: riot van, riot police, police dogs, tension but also a kind of calm because there was no bottle throwing or police charging. The police helicopter whirred overhead. I heard a policeman explain to a girl expressing annoyance at the intrusion that he was normally on the beat and not a riot police.

I reported on Twitter (and had corroborated by another Tweeter): a tearful girl was helped by a policeman after being hurt by another. I wrote: “It’s not all black and white in Stokes Croft.”

Every side has its goodies and baddies.

The grey, nuanced bits are the compelling drama of a riot: the untamed rawness of chaos.

I wish I could channel that elemental energy into good cause and creativity.

Last Wednesday (between the two nights of disturbances), I was interviewed for the Politics Show about whether Tesco should reopen.

My answer: Tesco should never have opened in the first place. A council duped (the original planning permission was achieved anonymously) and so flawed that campaigners mounted a judicial review.

A local woman walking past joined us. She said she liked Tesco and shopped there and resented the rioters for setting a bad example to her son.

We chatted. We were both upset by the smashing of the Salvation Army and other local shops caught in the crossfire.

She said: you should open a shop to rival Tesco’s and sell fruit and veg wholesale.

I said that’s what we want to do: set up a food co-op and sell affordable healthy food with volunteers doing four hours a month.

(Nor is Tesco cheaper than local shops anyway, according to our survey).

She said: I’d volunteer every day for such a shop.

Stokes Croft Tesco opens and butter bean salad


It’s hard to be happy about the 41st Tesco opening in Bristol (figure according to Tesco’s store locator).

93% of 500 locals surveyed had said No to Tesco’s in Stokes Croft. After over a year’s campaigning, it was bitter to see Bristol City Council bow to Tesco pressure last December.

Still, we are making the best of it.

On Friday 16 April, Tesco opened in Stokes Croft.

Friendly activists gave a Bristol-style welcome. They put a comfy sofa and lampshade outside on the pavement. Someone played a guitar.

Another strode into Tesco’s with a wad of Monopoly money. When he was not allowed to spend it, he tried to bribe a security guard with it.

A woman passer-by who also objected to Tesco’s monopoly, took up the Monopoly money-action.

On Saturday, a performer (see pic above) invited us in to ‘his’ Tesco, while outside on the pavement, stalls served free food, and promoted Picton Street’s local independent shops, in the street behind the dreaded Tesco.

Picton Street is a marvel, and includes the Bristolian Cafe, Yogasara yoga studio, vintage dress shops, an art gallery, Radford Mill organic farm shop and Licata, the family-owned Italian delicatessen.

Licata often has great bargains in olive oil and tins of beans. I am crazy about beans as they are a wonderful source of health. Licata has many variety of tinned beans, which to me = fast food.

I owe everything I know about beans to vegetarian hero, Rose Elliot. The Bean Book changed my eating habits for life.

The following recipe comes from there. Please consult The Bean Book for measurements, nutritional facts and top inventive recipes using dried beans and pulses.

Here is my sloppy fast-food version.

Gently fry sliced fresh mushrooms in (olive) oil so they are still succulent. Add a tin of drained butter beans and warm with the mushrooms. Add lemon juice squeezed from two lemons and chopped fresh herbs such as parsley or coriander. You can’t have too many fresh herbs so over-estimate. Mix it all in the frying pan, with salt to taste, and serve still warm with brown rice, or cold as a salad.

I used organic ingredients from Better Food organic supermarket, a 20-minute walk away from Tesco’s, and land cress as the fresh herb.

Rose Elliot’s recipe fries fresh cut-up garlic with the mushrooms and adds cumin spice, with coriander as the fresh herb.

PS I met a neighbour on Saturday who said she had to buy something at Tesco’s in Stokes Croft, and I am haunted by her anxious look.

So, just so you know: If it makes life easier to shop there, then do. Life’s too short for guilt and sacrifice.

I am not against people who use Tesco. I am against Tesco.

Tesco in Frome? Meeting 1 Dec 2010

Frome is a delightful market town.

I lived there for ten years in the 1980s bringing up small children and working as a National Childbirth Trust (NCT) teacher.

A bunch of us set up the Frome NCT playgroup, while another bunch of us – the West Country Childbirth Group – founded the birthing room in nearby Bath.

Back then, there was Safeways (only one) and a cattle market every Wednesday in the market place.

Now the cattle market has moved out-of-town and Frome is awash with supermarkets.

And now Tesco has plans to invade of Frome’s historic Saxon Vale.

Whaaaat? Another unwanted soulless hypermarket in this precious town with its thriving Artisan market and independent shops?

There will be a public meeting on Wednesday 1 December 2010 at 7.30pm at the Cheese and Grain in Frome.

John Harris, Guardian journalist, will be speaking at the meeting.

[PS He wrote brilliant article published 1 December 2010 and pledged at the meeting to fight Tesco and plot positive alternatives added 9 Dec]

The very successful Transition group, Sustainable Frome, will be involved.

I will be talking about what I have learnt from the No Tesco in Stokes Croft campaign.

Kevin McCloud of Channel 4’s Grand Designs will speak from the floor.

Too big Tesco

If you Google the two words: Tesco + Stop, you will see how many UK towns are using valuable energy trying to stop supermarkets, such as Tesco, destroying the fabric of their communities.

I am not against the odd Tesco supermarket, and I am certainly not against anyone who shops in Tesco.

But I do object to aggressive empire-building from food corporates with the power to overrule the wishes of councils and communities.

What do you think?

(Pic of Cheap St, Frome, from Wikipedia)

<h3>Update – added 9 December 2010</h3>

Over 300 locals attended the meeting and many people spoke, the vast majority directed at the developer, Quentin Webster, representing St James’s Investments Ltd.

The mood was overwhelmingly anti-Tesco and pro-local character and shops.

Quentin Webster took it well.

Halfway through the meeting, Quentin Webster said publicly: “I hate Tesco. I do.”

Publicly, I asked him why.

He said: “They are immoral as developers.”

He added St James’s Investments was a tempering force on Tesco.

And John Harris was a funny, acerbic and heart-stirring speaker.

Time to stop Tesco in Stokes Croft

There is still time to stop Tesco in Stokes Croft.

I have just written to Nigel Butler, Bristol City Council’s planning officer.

The deadline to write to Nigel is today. I am sorry this is last-minute but – like for the rest of us, life is pressured. It is hard to find time to campaign in between working and caring for dependents (let alone eating and sleeping!).

Stop press: Submit letters to Nigel, the planner, until 8 December 2010 – get writing/emailing!

Please go to the No to Tesco Stokes Croft campaign website for the template letter to help you raise planning issues with the Council – see Two more ways to take action, below, for a summary.

The No Tesco in Stokes Croft campaign team has unsung heros, giving their precious time to make the planning laws intelligible and relevant. They also make fabulous fund-raising bicycle-powered fresh pumpkin and ginger soup (see pic above and below).

<h2>Success so far</h2>

Campaigning by the No Tesco in Stokes Croft and a fiercely active community has kept the multinational out of Stokes Croft for a year.

Reputed to be the last high street in the UK not to have corporate retailer, Stokes Croft wants it to stay that way.

Tesco did not get full planning permission on 22 September 2010, an historic community day which saw over 200 protestors fill the Council chambers.

Nor did Tesco get an alcohol license for its proposed store in Stokes Croft, thanks to hundreds of letters of objection sent to Bristol City Council.

The community’s objections were supported by the police who argued that another retailer selling (cheap) alcohol in the area would increase existing problems of “pre-loading” and street drinking.

<h2>Two more ways to take action</h2>

1. WRITE / EMAIL Bristol City Council about two vital planning issues before 7 December

a) Noise
Tesco’s recent noise report is wholly inaccurate and misleading. Tesco cannot comply with the Council’s noise conditions.

b) Traffic
Because goods are delivered “just-in-time” from centralised depots, a Tesco Express (by Tesco’s own reckoning) would get 6 deliveries a day, 42 a week. These would block the cycle path, bus stop and two pedestrian crossings on either side.

Please see No Tesco in Stokes Croft’s detailed template letter.

Copy, paste, add your address and personalise.

Email: nigel.butler AT bristol.gov.uk (CC: rachel.h.bibb AT gmail.com so campaigners have a copy) or write to: Nigel Butler, Development Management, City Development, Bristol City Council, Brunel House, St, George’s Road, Bristol BS1 5UY.

2) ATTEND the Council meeting to find out if these objections have been heard – it will be another historic day for the community.

Wed 8 December 2010 at 2pm at the Bristol City Council, College Green.

Anyway, here is a copy of my letter:

“Dear Nigel

Re. Applications for proposed Tesco on Cheltenham Road

I have lived in walking distance of Stokes Croft for over 20 years. It is my shopping area and my community, and I strongly object to a planning application from a supermarket which will undermine the area’s unique character, local trade and community cohesion.

I attended the Council planning meeting on October 22. Like many who did so, I was appalled and disheartened by the process.

Over 200 people crowded into the Council chambers. There were over 50 in the overspill room. We took time out of our busy lives – caring for our families, studying or working – because of the depths of our concern for our community.

We had three learned submissions from our representatives, Claire Milne, Sam Allen and Rachel Bibb. These clearly outlined to the letter of the planning law, why the application from Tesco should not go ahead.

Planners dismissed our concerns on the basis they had received legal advice that they were not relevant (material considerations) to the external works and shop front applications.

This dismissive response was shocking and incomprehensible.

We expressed concerns about how a successful application from Tesco would increase traffic on Cheltenham Road, a main artery high-street with a cycle lane.

And how would a huge lorry negotiate the one-track cobblestoned Picton Lane at the back of the proposed store?

I was shocked to discover that these genuine concerns for safety were not considered significant. Why? Because change of use had already been granted in September 2009, and traffic issues were supposedly dealt with at the time in that application.

How can this be a satisfactory response?

Tesco used a third party to make its application so change of use was granted on the basis that it was a “shop” – an ordinary shop like its neighbours.

Traffic issues were dealt with not knowing the true identity of the application.

Now the planners know the real situation – that change of use was actually granted to a multinational corporation that operates just-in-time deliveries and, in this case, at least 42 a week at up to 40 minutes each within a 6 hour period – should they not re-examine traffic concerns?

Why have the impacts to public and highway safety not been assessed when servicing a store is a material consideration?

The Government’s Planning Inspectorate has already ruled that servicing is a material consideration for external works and shop frontage applications, as shown in the case of Mill Road in Cambridge and Sunningdale in Berkshire.

I now refer to a letter drafted by the No Tesco in Stokes Croft campaign which I support – I am grateful to the campaign for the hours of unpaid work that have gone into studying the applications and drafting a detailed, informed and intelligent response.

When drafting your report to the councillors, I would like you to address the following questions:

1. Why, when the Government’s Planning Inspectorate has already ruled that servicing is a material consideration for these applications, are you denying this and ignoring the significant risks to public and highway safety?

2. Why has there been no impact assessment of the significant risks to public and highway safety posed by the servicing of this proposed store, now that you have information about the intensity of such servicing at clearly precarious locations?

It would be negligent to grant permission for these applications in the absence of an adequate impact assessment.

Bristol’s Statement of Community Involvement

Why did the planners ignore Bristol’s Community Involvement Statement?

Again, I am grateful to my campaigning colleagues, for expressing my concerns so thoughtfully and thoroughly. Here they are:

Bristol’s Community Involvement Statement is a statutory requirement from central government and significant amounts of public money have been spent producing it.

It is therefore entirely unacceptable to grant permission for these applications until the directives within the Statement have been followed.

Whilst the specifics of how applicants comply with the Statement is discretional, it is unacceptable that the Council’s Planning Officers have made no attempts to encourage compliance with it – or sought any explanation for why the applicant is refusing to comply with it.

The fact that both the Council and applicant have shown complete disregard for the Statement must also be recognised as showing complete disrespect for the need to involve the community in their operations and plans.

Bristol’s Community Involvement Statement states that:

“Developers will be expected to involve the local community and Ward Members in early discussion of the implications of their proposals and how these might be dealt with. [our emphasis]”

The document also states that the Council will encourage developers to undertake various specific community involvement activities. This particular proposed development falls under category 2 – sensitive sites. The document outlines a variety of activities the Council is supposed to encourage developers to carry out.

Tesco has not meaningfully involved the community or Ward members in the development of its plans. Nor have we seen evidence of the Council encouraging Tesco to do this.

In fact, when our local MP and Barbara Janke asked Tesco to carry out a consultation, the company said it would only do this if it did not need to call it a consultation as it was not prepared to act on the results.

This is clear evidence of Tesco’s complete disregard the needs of our local community.

It would be entirely negligent to grant permission for this proposed store in the absence of efforts to adhere to Bristol’s Community Involvement Statement. Refusal to do so by the applicant can only be viewed as further evidence of Tesco’s disregard for its impact on our community.

When drafting your report to Councillors, I would like planners to address the following questions:

What efforts has the Council made to encourage Tesco to adhere to the Community Involvement Statement? If none, please explain why.

What activities has Tesco carried out to involve the community in the development of its plans?

What is the purpose of the Community Involvement Statement if the Council ignores it in Planning decisions such as these?

SPD10 and the Stokes Croft Plan are relevant to these applications

We were not allowed to ask questions in the October 22 meeting nor even to point silently to a document which was so crucial to your understanding.

SPD10 contains a directive on page 13 that ‘Development proposals are expected to address … the Stokes Croft Study’.

The page on which this directive is given, also includes a map clearly showing the boundary including the proposed site.

So, whilst SPD10′s boundaries fall metres short of the proposed site, page 13 [the page we stood up to point to, silently!] contains an exception where the boundary is extended to include the Stokes Croft area.

SPD10 explicitly identifies this area as being in need of particular attention and, more specifically, that independent traders must be protected from supermarkets.

Planning officers have dismissed the relevance of SPD10 and the Stokes Croft Plan on the basis that SPD10′s boundaries fall metres short of the proposed site.

However if this directive on page 13 of SPD10 did not intend the proposed site to be included, then surely the inclusion of the map would be accompanied by a note explaining that this stretch of Cheltenham Road is not included in this directive.

In the absence of this stated exclusion, then the map must be interpreted to delineate the expanded boundary for this particular directive.

The Stokes Croft Plan makes it clear that care must be taken to ensure the range of small shops is not supplanted by supermarkets. It is unacceptable to dismiss this.

As someone who has used, supported and engaged with these local shops for the last 20 years, I feel very strongly about this.

Permission cannot be granted for these applications until an adequate explanation has been provided as to why planning officers are choosing to ignore the clear boundaries set within SPD10, with respect to the Stokes Croft Plan.

When drafting your report to Councillors I would like planners to address the following questions:

Why the map on page 13 of SPD10 clearly showing the proposed site being included within the Stokes Croft Plan is being ignored?

Why, if the proposed site was not intended to be included within SPD10′s directive to address the Stokes Croft Plan, there is no annotation on the map (that includes the proposed site), clearly stating that despite the Stokes Croft Plan including this site, that for the purposes of SPD10, this is not the case?

Why, when the official Plan for Stokes Croft makes it clear that care must be taken to protect independent traders from supermarkets, absolutely nothing has been done to address this?

For the proposed store to open, Tesco must apply and be granted permission for an extension

Again I am grateful for the preparation and research that has gone into my co-campaigners’ assessment of the situation. I could not have expressed it better myself.

The addition of 26 square metres of pre-fabricated buildings in the form of walk-in chiller and freezer rooms clearly constitutes an extension to the existing building.

Tesco has not applied for this and is attempting to pass these prefabricated buildings as external works.

Permission to open the proposed store cannot be granted in the absence of an additional application for an extension.

When drafting your report to councillors, I would like planners to address the following questions:

Why there has been no application for an extension for these pre-fabricated buildings?

Why the Council has not requested such an application as a condition to opening the proposed store?

Why, when the need for this extension was raised ahead of the meeting on 22 September, planning officers failed to respond to this and the issue was completely ignored?

Tesco’s recently submitted noise report

Tesco’s noise report entirely flawed and full of inconsistencies and therefore completely invalid.

Tesco’s BS4142 acoustic report, submitted by KR Associates, is highly inaccurate.

In several areas, incorrect methods and have been used, leading to a distorted and inaccurate noise assessment which wrongly states that Tesco’s proposed external works will fall within Bristol City Council’s stated noise requirements for new developments of 6dB below background levels.

Background noise level assessment

To assess background noise level, the report states that for night time assessments, 5 minute noise readings should be measured throughout the night, and the lowest 5 minute reading should be taken as the background noise level. The lowest 5 minute reading KRA measured was 27.1 dB (see p26). However, they have not used the lowest 5 minute reading in their background noise level assessment, but have instead worked out the average reading from the entire night. This means they assessed the background noise level at 30dB, which is 2.9dB higher than if they had used the lowest reading as required.

Acoustic Feature Correction of plant

In BS4142 noise assessments, the measured noise emitted by the plant should bepenalised by 5dB if the noise contains a distinguishable, discrete, continuous note (whine, hiss, screech, hum etc), distinct impulses (bangs, clicks, clatters or thumps) or an irregular occurrence. The report has not applied the acoustic feature correction which makes the readings incorrect because:

The plant will emit a distinguishable, discrete note: The condenser (Searle MGB124) and the AC units (Mitsubishi) have a high frequency whine caused by the motors and a low frequency hum created by the fan blades.

The noise emitted will be irregular and will include distinct impulses: the plant will be operated by a thermostat, meaning it will consistently turn off when it reaches a desired temperature, and on again when the temperature drops below a certain level. This will create a sudden jump in noise from the plant which will normally be accompanied by a clicking noise from a solenoid in the motor.
The measurements in Tesco’s report misrepresent the situation because:

It assessed the condenser within controlled conditions, where the air through the fan would have been uniform and not caused much noise. In real conditions (i.e. outside), even a slight wind can cause the fan blades to make a hum noise.

Data beyond 5000Hz has not been included despite the human ear being able to detect sound as high as 20,000Hz. This means the report does not determine tonal content on this range of audible hearing and therefore does not represent an adequate assessment of the actual noise of the plants.

Searle Condenser Data

Tesco’s report rates the condenser as having a sound power level of 50.5 dB when running at 2V 216prm. However, the manufacturer’s (Searle) Sales Deparment have provided data which suggests the sound power level will be much higher than this.

According to Tesco’s report their proposed external works will fall within the Council’s stated noise requirements of 6dB below background levels. However, when recalculated to take into account the inaccuracies highlighted above, both night and day time levels are in fact above this figure and will therefore exceed the Council’s condition of being 6dB below background levels.

This acoustic report is wholly inaccurate and misleading.

Tesco is renowned for submitting similarly misleading and inaccurate reports elsewhere in the country.

They are wasting our precious time and resources and cannot be allowed to continue to make a farce of this situation.

Having initially failed to even produce an acoustic report when clearly required in order to meet conditions set by the Council and now presenting an invalid report, permission must be denied for this external works application on the basis that they are unable to meet the conditions set.

In the Development Control meeting on 22 September, the No Tesco campaign submitted an acoustic report carried out by an accredited noise consultant.

This clearly showed that the external works would create too much noise to meet the Council’s condition.

The Committee dismissed this report and asked Tesco to submit their own report. This then allowed Tesco to hire a company willing to distort its findings in order to gain the results Tesco desired.

This draws into question the appropriateness of Tesco (or any applicant), rather than an independent body appointed by Bristol City Council, being responsible for commissioning such reports.

When drafting your report to councillors, I would like planners to address the following questions:

How can Tesco’s report be valid if it has incorrectly used the average, rather than lowest background noise levels?

Why does the report not incorporate the necessary 5dB penalty in light of it falling within the category of noise that requires this?

Why does the report only use data up to 5000Hz when the human ear detects noise up to 20 000Hz?

What mechanism does the Council have to prevent applicants from submitting misleading noise reports that fail to comply with UK standards, and to disqualify applicants who do this from submitting further applications?

Ahead of the 22 September Development Control meeting, you received hundreds of letters making an official complaint about the handling of this case by the Planning team, specifically asking to be notified of what action will be taken to investigate this.

What action is being taken around this? Please ensure your team is no longer dismissing our valid concerns.

So far, I have spoken to no one who has been impressed by the planning process.

Genuine and informed concerns seem to have been too readily dismissed.

I trust that you can restore our confidence in the planning process

With best wishes

Elisabeth Winkler”

tescos_devalue_stoke_croft.jpg

Tesco on Stokes Croft halted

Will Tesco open on Stokes Croft?

No. Tesco does not have the planning permission it needs to open the 39th Tesco store in Bristol. (39th? O yes. Please see Tesco’s own store locator).

Here’s how:

Following the planning meeting on the 22 September, Tesco has to modify its shop front before Bristol City Council planning committee will give permission for it.

More significantly, the council did not approve Tesco’s application for “external works and installation of plant and machinery”.

The planning committee asked instead for a noise assessment.

Currently the plant Tesco would need to use to run the store would be far too noisy.

You may well ask why this was not done beforehand.

Our own campaigners managed to get an acoustic report done, included in its 37-page report (which by the way the planners advised the councillors not to read in depth as the planners insisted that all our points – including about noise and traffic – are “not material considerations” and thus irrelevant. Whaaaat?! I think we will find out in due course the planners got it very, very wrong. )

This comment from someone called Ruth at Bristol 247.com sums it up well:

“The planners gave very strict criteria for extra noise when they approved change of use for the site, and the plant Tesco want to install can’t meet it. It was concerns about this that caused councillors to delay the vote on this application. If the council doesn’t want to sign off on a breach of the condition it itself imposed less than a year ago (which would be an interesting thing to do from a legal standpoint, as some officials seem to be aware), the council can’t approve the application.”

What I would like to know: are increases of traffic also included as criteria for change-of-use?

Like all multi-nationals, Tesco exploits regulations.

O!  The wrongness of Tesco using a third party to apply for change-of-use, which hoodwinked the planning people into thinking they were giving permission for an ordinary shop.

From a traffic point-of-view there is a huge difference: an ordinary shop has to store its stock on-site, while Tesco delivers stock when needed.

Tesco’s six-a-day delivery lorries will create traffic problems on the Cheltenham Road, as Claire Milne points out.

But it is not just the food deliveries I object to: it is the Tesco marketing that promises cheapness that does not deliver and damages local communities instead.

Stokes Croft is an exciting up-and-coming area developing from the grass-roots up. People come from outside Bristol and different countries to admire its uniqueness. And this is just the beginning.

Stokes Croft is an asset to Bristol.

Let’s keep it that way.

Organic Food Festival 2010, Bristol

The Soil Association Organic Food Festival (see Demo kitchen above) now in its tenth year, lifts my spirits.

“79% of food we buy comes from just four shops,” says Real Food Festival’s Philip Lowery at the launch of Europe’s biggest organic food market.

The Organic Food Festival showcases real food producers who cannot be shoehorned into the supermarket-system, with its gargantuan requirement for uniformity.

After a week objecting to a multi-billion-backed Tesco (39th store in Bristol) in Stokes Croft, this is just what I need to revive my flagging spirits.

Somerset Organic Link displays freshly-harvested vegetables grown in carbon-rich organic soil without polluting the land with nitrate fertiliser.

And a variety of pumpkins you won’t find in a supermarket.

Better Food Company (a 20 minutes walk from the proposed Tesco) has a field outside Bristol supplying the shop with much of its seasonal local organic produce.

Better Food’s Community Farm is open to all, including helping in return for a share of the harvest.

I buy a spelt loaf from the Bertinet Bakery based in Bath.

Bertinet Bakery were exhilarated having just been awarded a Soil Association Organic Food award for Baked Goods by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall at the awards ceremony held earlier that day in At-bristol.

The theme of this year’s Organic Fortnight is Choose Organic Everyday.

According to the latest Soil Association market report on the recession-hit 2009, 33% of organic purchases are now made by shoppers including manual and casual workers, students, pensioners and people on benefits.

In other words, recession or not, people care about healthy food, where it comes from and how it was grown.

Some organic businesses in common with many non-organic ones were hurt by the recession – overall a near 13% decline in 2009 organic sales.

But  others resisted the downward trend: organic milk sales were up 1%, organic baby food up 21%. By 2010 UK farmland that is organic rises above 5% for the first time.

Junk food high in cheap fat, sugar and additives, or chickens raised in giant sheds  never seeing natural daylight – these are the product of an industrialised and centralised food system that profits shareholders – not the consumer.

Tesco and the other three supermarkets control over three-quarters of our food. They seek market-dominance and make vast profits – Tesco’s profits increased 12% in half-year profits to £1.6bn. [October 2010 figures added after blog was posted].

Supermarkets promise cheapness but it’s an illusion.

The costs are externalised – in other words, they are picked up elsewhere: rivers polluted by farm chemicals are cleaned by taxpayers’ money; obesity from eating junk food is paid for by the NHS. Farmers are squeezed; animals farmed inhumanely.

A shopping survey in Stokes Croft – the Bristol area currently fighting off a Tesco – shows food is cheaper in the local shops than Tesco Express.

Devon-based Riverford farm’s monthly price comparisons show the organic fruit and veg in its delivery box is on average 20% cheaper than supermarkets.

Can you imagine a world where the only food you can buy comes from industrialised food systems?

(Well, that is if oil supplies remain steady because if not we will be stuffed if we are relying on only four suppliers ferrying in food from afar).

Another – local organic – world is possible.

PS Thanks to Juliet Wilson for encouraging this post.

PPS Deadline for objecting to Tesco in Stokes Croft: 14 September.