Campaigners have fired the opening shots in their fight to keep Tesco from taking over a former village pub. Protestors have set up Facebook pages and a website, nototesco.org, after almost 1,000 people packed a public meeting to discuss the controversial plans for the empty Upper Red Lion pub in Herne.
Villagers braved rain and freezing winds and kept coming even after the community centre filled, forcing the meeting to move to St Martin's church. The panel of parish, city and county councillors found themselves facing a row of packed pews. Conservative MP Roger Gale said:
"There is clearly a one-sided view here, but what we do has to be done within the law. We can make sure proper account is taken of the conservation area and the considerable highways issues."
The meeting was organised after Tesco announced that it had taken out a lease on the empty pub next to the church and would be opening a Tesco Express store on the site. During the meeting suggestions about the nature opposition to the application could take came thick and fast. The supermarket chain does not need official permission to change the use of the former pub, but bosses have applied to make changes to the rear of the building. Kent County Councillor Alan Marsh said:
"I want to give you an edge. Tesco says it has put a planning application in at the rear of the property. That is its Achilles heel. If it fails to get that it may make it commercially unviable. The war starts now."
Speaking from the crowd, former policeman Nick Biddiss said:
"This is a wonderful show of solidarity; I hope the councillors take note, go away and deliver."
In response to calls for the next parish council meeting to be held in the church, chairman Tony Day suggested the church might be already booked – but vicar the Reverend Elaine Richardson said they would be welcome. Life-long Herne resident and fine arts consultant Tina Rackham said:
"There has been a lot of concern that the community centre is too small and now we have seen that is the case. The Red Lion would offer a great community base. It would need to be commercially viable, but the upstairs could have business units and the downstairs be used by both the church and the public for functions. I think it would be feasible for the community to work together with the parish council to take over the Red Lion."
Mr Marsh plans to raise the issue at a meeting of Canterbury City Council's rural area member panel on Monday, January 16 at 7pm at the Guildhall in Westgate.
Tesco did not respond to the Times' request for a comment before we went to press.
thisiskent 13th 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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