Villagers turn out in force to fight Tesco
Tesco was set to hold talks with councillors today (12th Jan) after 500 people piled into a village church to oppose a new store in Herne. There were incredible scenes as hundreds turned out to vent their anger at the supermarket giant’s plans to move into the Upper Red Lion pub. The public meeting attracted so many people it had to be moved at the last minute from the village hall to St Martin’s Church. Defiant parish council chairman Tony Day, who will meet with Tesco today, said:
“There will be no negotiation. It will be Tesco out of Herne and nothing but.”
If you would like to join the campaign send your contact details to
A fiery public meeting over plans for a Tesco store in Herne attracted so many people it had to be moved to the village church. Almost 500 villagers attempted to cram themselves into Herne community hall to voice fears about a proposed Express store at the Upper Red Lion pub. More than 100 were left stranded outside before local vicar Elaine Richardson saved the day by offering St Martin’s Church as an alternative venue.
Traffic was brought to a stand-still as the crowds marched to the historic building and queued outside for a chance to have their say on the controversial plans. The meeting last Wednesday was organised by the parish council and led by chairman Tony Day. He opened by saying:
"I’ve been taken absolutely by surprise by the number of people who have turned up. We organised this meeting because we need to be informed of the feeling within the village about this proposal, and I don’t think we're in much doubt now.”
Just one person admitted to being in favour of the Tesco plans as a panel of councillors and Bay MP Sir Roger Gale outlined their concerns. Sir Roger said:
“Planning consent for change of use is not necessary as it’s already a retail premises, so we are restricted in what we can and can’t do. I’m not knocking the strength of feeling within the village, but the county council and city council have to act within planning law as it is, and not as we would like it to be. What we can do is make sure proper account is taken of the fact this is a conservation area, is on a very dangerous bend and there are serious highway issues in what is proposed.”
County councillor for Herne Alan Marsh added:
“I don’t think Tesco will start work on this building without the planning permission for the back of the property. If they don’t get it does it make their commercial ambitions unworkable or financially unviable. There’s also a moral issue about whether you can have a Tesco next door to a church.
When the pub was built it was part of the church’s identity. I don’t think Tesco would fulfil that same role. I can’t see for the life of me how they'll get round the highway issues. For eight years I’ve been racking my brains and trying to solve the problem of people coming down School Lane and wanting to turn right. The roundabout is too small and the road is too narrow. But nowhere in the Tesco letter does it say anything about congestion or parking.”
Herne city councillor Peter Vickery-Jones said:
“I didn’t expect so many people. It sends out a very strong message and will frighten the life out of Tesco. It may not stop them, but it will make them think. You have to ask yourself why they're not here tonight. They’re a corporate body and they think they’re too big to worry about us. But we need to say to them this is not for us, now go away.”
Voices from the meeting
Dozens of locals expressed their fears about the plans after the meeting was opened up to the floor. Phil Eichorn, who lives in Herne Street, suggested protesting outside the pub with placards, adding:
“Tesco is a big organisation and they're counting on our apathy. When they see we don't want a shop there they'll think twice about it."
Wendy Dinley, of Greenhill Road, added:
“I've got a daughter getting married at the church next year and she doesn't want to get married on a Tesco forecourt."
Concerns were also raised about traffic problems already at the site and the dangers of increased congestion. Aaron Bishop said:
"We've got an infant school and a junior school in Herne and Tesco may be deemed an allurement to pupils. If they run across a busy road how many fatal accidents are there going to be?"
Retired police detective Nick Biddiss, who lives in the village, said:
"I really think this has been a wonderful night and a marvellous show of solidarity, so you councillors need to take it away and deliver."
Parish council chairman Tony Day has started a “Say No to Tesco" campaign. He is urging people to write to Tesco with their views, either to:
Tesco Stores Ltd, Corporate and Legal Affairs, New Tesco House, Delamare Road, Cheshunt, Herts, EN8 9SL or by emailing email@example.com
If you would like to join the campaign send your contact details to firstname.lastname@example.org
Petition attracts almost 1,000 signatures
A petition against the plans has already attracted almost 1,000 signatures at Herne Village Stores next door. Owners Thiruvalluvar and Priya Kumanan fear they will have to shut if the proposal gets the go ahead. Mrs Kumanan said:
“If it happens it will be the end of us. You’ve only got to look at what effect they’ve had on smaller businesses elsewhere. gets the go ahead. If it happens it will be the end of us. But the support we’ve had has been wonderful. It’s amazing how many people have signed the petition and we’ve had so many since the public meeting that we actually ran out of pages.”
Vicar criticises Tesco's "arrogance"
Herne vicar Elaine Richardson described the turnout as “absolutely fantastic" after the last-minute venue change. Recalling the start of the night. she said:
"When I arrived at the community hall there were hordes of people outside. I could see lines of heads inside the window. They were like sardines. I thought the best thing was to offer to hold the meeting in the church. We had about 530 for the nativity on Christmas Eve and it was more packed then, so I would say there were about 500 for the meeting. It showed the passion people have for the village."
Mrs Richardson echoed the views of those who turned up. Hitting out at Tesco's "big boy" mentality She said:
"I think there's a blatant arrogance about setting up next door to a family business There's something about the big boys just thinking they can push their way into the High Street or a village like ours. It's awful."
More than 130 baptisms, weddings and funerals are held at the church every year, but Mrs Richardson says this could be affected. She said:
“We're very worried about parking. As a church it's not only weddings and funerals we have to worry about. Just maintaining an ancient building for present and future generations requires almost constant building work. I've been told we're going to lose out on weddings, but I'm not sure if that's going to be the case yet"
Mrs Richardson had explored the option of converting the pub into a vicarage with community uses, but it was ruled out by the local diocese. She said:
“We really wanted to do that because we're strapped for space. To have the facility there would have been fantast c, but the diocese said it wasn't suitable because of privacy issues, but no doubt money came into it as well."
Other villages had fears but are happy now
A committee to fight Tesco's plans was set up at a meeting on Tuesday, and talks were set to be held today with the company's corporate affairs manager.
City and parish councillors will meet with Carol Leslie, of Tesco, to discuss the plans. Parish council chairman Tony Day said:
"There will be no negotiation. It will be Tesco out of Herne and nothing but."
Ms Leslie says Tesco is currently putting together a scheme for the Express store. She said:
“Once this has been completed we said we will meet with the parish council to discuss this scheme and any concerns they have. We are aware there are people in Herne who have concerns about our scheme but there are also people who are in support of the idea. We have many Express stores in villages and many where people initially had exactly the same concerns but are now a popular and welcome addition to village life."
[sounds a bit like Invasion of the Bodysnatchers?]
HB Times 12th Jan 2012
The Tescopoly Alliance was launched in June 2005 to highlight and challenge the negative impacts of Tesco's behaviour along its supply chains both in the UK and internationally, on small businesses, on communities and the environment. The campaign also advocates national and international legislation needed to curb the market power of all the major British supermarkets.
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