Tesco squatters evicted

I stood in the cold bright sunshine watching No Tesco squat protestors being removed from the roof by baillifs.

It took  all of yesterday as many of the squatters had secured their bodies to the premises.

About 200 supporters stood vigil too, cheering and clapping them.

Some had a sound system (which blared out Ghost Town at one point, aptly), a musician played Klezmer on a clarinet.

A disturbing spectacle played out on the roof of the old Jesters comedy club which Tesco wants to turn into its sixth supermarket within a mile.

I don’t want a Tesco in Stokes Croft.

It’s a funky up-and-coming area with some of the best food shops and cafes in Bristol.

Herbert’s Bakery, the Radio 4 award-winning Thali Cafe, the Radford Mill organic farm shop, Licata the family-run delicatessen, Galliford’s late night corner shopBell’s diner, The Bristolian and Cafe Kino are some of the local businesses that would be at risk.

Supermarkets kill local business and the character of local communities.

There are two main strands to this protest.

1) The No Tesco in Stokes Croft campaign which has already collected over 4,000 signatures.

2) The squatters, who have been occupying the old Jesters comedy club since February after hearing about Tesco’s plans.

I admire the squatters for putting their lives on the line for a just cause.

I am not saying they are perfect.

For instance, a protestor in a Halloween mask squirted liquid at a balliff.

I thought: surely that is not in the Gandhian spirit of passive resistance?

I felt moved to turn to a nearby policeman (one of 70 including several on horseback) to explain this was not non-violent direct action as I understood it.

The policeman said he sympathised. He had not wanted a Tesco in South Bristol. (Local Bedminster residents successfully saw off Tesco but now has Sainsbury’s to contend with).

Another protestor had attached himself to the top of a tripod.

The baillifs used a blue cherry-picker with a crane to get him down.

When they were not looking, he slid down the tripod and onto the arm of the crane, hugging it with his body, trying to skate its length.

But a bailliff grabbed him from behind, and five joined him. He tried to shuffle down the crane’s arm. They kept yanking him back and it must have hurt – he yelled with pain.

Of course the baillifs succeeded. It was six against one.

This is the way society is structured. The law of the land is upheld by physical force.

And the law is not always fair or correct.

In my view the planning laws need to be changed to protect local shops.

The protestors were using their bodies to express a need to change the status-quo.

Two other protestors had their arms in a barrel of concrete. The baillifs assessed the situation (see above) then used an electric hacksaw to remove them, as the Daily Mail reported.

As the tripod man was escorted to the ground, a section of the crowd chanted: “Let him go.”

The mounted police surged forward. I smelled horse manure on the ground.

Most of the squatters were not arrested. Four face charges for public order offences, according to the BBC.

“The police let them go, bless them,” one of the supporters said.

The BBC video clip has highlighted the most dramatic bits, natch – there is also a quote from yours truly.

Meanwhile Tesco has one more planning hurdle to negotiate and the No Tesco in Stokes Croft campaign – along with 100s of others taking place all over the UK – continues.

Still time to add your signature to the Bristol City Council petition.

PS A few blogs ago I announced I was standing for the Green party in Bishopston. Last week I withdrew from standing. I am currently a full-time carer; I just did not have the capacity to do it properly. Huge decision. Hard to make. Feel relieved. Green beliefs means respecting nature’s limits – I had to respect mine!

7 responses to “Tesco squatters evicted

  1. Bristol City Council can still say NO to Tesco in Stokes Croft
    18 March for immediate release

    from http://notesco.wordpress.com

    Bristol City Council planning team has this week received over 2500 petition cards saying NO to Tesco in Stokes Croft asking them to conduct a meaningful consultation over the proposed site for yet another Tesco store [1].

    The community was completely unaware of the application and therefore unable to feed in to the process.

    No Tesco in Stokes Croft’s own consultation of nearly 500 people found a staggering 96% believe the Cheltenham Road does not need another supermarket – there are already five Tesco stores trading within one mile [2].

    At a meeting with representatives from No Tesco in Stokes Croft, the Council’s planning team agreed to tell everyone who sent in a card when Tesco apply for the final parts of planning permission.

    This ‘shopfronts application’, which considers the impact of a Tesco shopfront on the local area, represents an imminent opportunity for the community of Stokes Croft to stop Tesco from opening through legitimate channels [3].

    Claire Milne, local resident representing the community group No Tesco in Stokes Croft said:

    “Planning law continues to serve the needs of big business rather than local communities and it’s frustrating that we are pushed to use the shopfront application to raise our concerns. This process technically prevents Bristol City Council from responding to concerns beyond those to do with the shop front. This is an opportunity to address planning processes that fail communities and undermine the Council’s stated intention to work towards a sustainable Bristol. Support for the ‘No Tesco in Stokes Croft’ campaign has been overwhelming and we’re determined to make our voices heard.”

    Bristol City Council has been meeting with Tesco to help tailor their architectural plans to be accepted through this final planning process.

    The No Tesco in Stokes Croft campaign will be making every effort to help the community understand this part of the planning application (an area that often excludes people by being too complicated) and advise how their actions can be most effective.

    Thanks to the strength of local opposition to the proposed Tesco the Council’s decision will now be made by a Committee at a public meeting rather than by a case officer behind closed doors.


    For more information please contact:
    Facebook: Tescos at the former jesters site, Stokes croft! They must be joking.

    [1] The majority of cards were collected at businesses just doors away from the proposed Tesco site at the former “Jesters” on Cheltenham Road, Stokes Croft Bristol.
    Images of local post office owner and local resident Bushra Randhawa with stacks of petition cards and card design attached. Please contact Sam Allen for High res images.

    [2] The campaign group carried out their consultation after Bristol City Council received no response from the 55 local residents they consulted last October – the No Tesco in stokes Croft campaign has yet to find anyone who received the Council’s letter. The ‘No Tesco in Stokes Croft campaign has since visited and attempted to survey each of the 55 addresses that were consulted by the council.

    Surveys were conducted by doorstop canvassing, at local shops and online between 1st Feb 2010 – 5th March 2010. 128 surveys were completed online whilst the remaining 349 were paper surveys completed by either canvassers in the presence of local residence or residents themselves. Please see attached doc for full results

    As a key campaign ask the No Tesco in Stokes Croft campaign recognises the need to consult on a wider level – their consultation carried out by a local team of volunteers is an attempt to start the process.

    Bristol City Council granted Change of Use of planning permission after conducting the minimum legal requirement for consultation.
    a) Sending letters to 55 neighbouring residents (and received zero responses)
    b) Sticking one A4 notification on a nearby lamppost stipulating that
    Change of Use had been applied for (by an outside contractor)
    c) Publishing one line at the back of the Evening Post under Statutory Notifications

    [3] http://www.bristol.gov.uk/ccm/content/Environment-Planning/Planning/planning-policy-documents/bristol-local-plan/spg-file-storage-items/PAN8.en


  2. Excellent interview on the BBC, E. You look about 35! You should be on TV.
    There needs to be a quantifiable estimate of profit and loss, a Job and Tax Impact Statement. The BBC report said that only 20 jobs would be generated by Tesco. Surely, the numbers of jobs lost by local businesses cannot compensate. There is also the question of city taxes. How much more taxes will the Tesco produce compared to taxes levied on small businesses?
    Never mind that the UK planning laws don’t allow for this. Only the financial argument will sway the Council.


  3. Also, there must be a legal way that the Council can opt out of the Tesco. Needs legal researcher.


  4. Thanks, Philippa, that is brilliant.

    Shows what an unlevel playing field this situation is because Tesco has banks of top lawyers and accountants to help make their case…

    We need an intern!


  5. O! On TV! How super! Good work.


  6. Touching piece. Have you approached Mark Taylor at ‘Fork’ to contribute a piece on this?


  7. Pingback: No Tesco in Stokes Croft fundraising party – Chance to win a Banksy! | Real Food Lover

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