Campaigners celebrate Tesco's withdrawal with champagne
Published: 3 June, 2015
By WILLIAM McLENNAN
CAMPAIGNERS who fought against plans to open a Tesco Express store in Belsize Park are celebrating after the proposals were shelved by the supermarket giant.
There was a huge outpouring of opposition in January when Britain’s largest retailer revealed plans to open a store on the corner of Haverstock Hill and Belsize Grove, with more than 3,000 people signing a petition against the move.
Key figures in a six-month campaign popped open a bottle of bubbly outside the former HSBC bank in triumph last night. Opponents feared the arrival of Tesco would drive out much-loved independent traders and spoil the area’s “villagey” feel, with high-profile figures including Oscar-winner Emma Thompson, Dame Janet Suzman, Damian Lewis and James Corden swinging behind the campaign.
Their efforts appeared to be in vain when Tesco won permission in February to sell alcohol at the site, but after requests from the New Journal to clarify their position, a press official for Tesco confirmed at 5pm yesterday that they had “made the difficult decision not to proceed with plans for a new store”.
Little over an hour later, with a glass of freshly poured champagne in one hand, Linda Grove, who spearheaded the opposition, said: “It’s just great. Everybody said you won’t be able to beat an organisation as large as Tesco, and it just shows that you can. It’s also brought the community together and actually empowered us by linking together communities in Belsize Village and Hampstead, so when it happens again, we’ll be a stronger force.”
Conservative councillor Leila Roy, who has been instrumental in the campaign, said it “shows that the people of Belsize are a force to be reckoned with”.
Andrew Thornton, from Thornton’s Budgens, an independently-run franchise, said: “It’s fantastic news and shows a good local campaign can be successful. The support of the community from the very beginning has been extraordinary and my commitment to them will be to continue to try to do better.”
Not everyone will be overjoyed by the U-turn after some spoke in favour of Tesco’s arrival, which they said would bring cheaper groceries to the area.
In response, Mr Thornton said that he would be working to lower prices and believed the recent acquisition of Budgens’ parent company by Booker, a significantly larger firm, would see costs fall.
He added: “People sometimes see us to be expensive, and sometimes we are, but we will change that.”
In a letter to Tesco earlier this year, Ms Thompson, who has won Academy Awards for both writing and acting, said: “Belsize is a villagey area – it has no need of a Tesco and its very nature will be threatened.”
A spokesman for Tesco said: “We have reviewed our proposals for the former HSBC site in Haverstock Hill. Having been unable to reach an agreement with the landlord, we have made the difficult decision not to proceed with plans for a new store.”
The spokesman said the decision was not a direct response to local opposition.