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Bristol City council must support the community and reject Tesco | Sam Allen

While I do not condone the violence, the riot in Stokes Croft has caused less damage than Tesco itself

Thousands have been campaigning for more than a year to stop Tesco opening in Stokes Croft, Bristol. The reasons for not wanting a Tesco in our community range from the impact on local shops and farmers through to deep concerns that the dominance of the supermarket model creates a risk of us not being able to feed ourselves in a future when oil prices soar. More than 2,500 petition cards were sent to Bristol City Council objecting to Tesco and 96% of the 700 people surveyed said they didn’t want another supermarket.

We have painstakingly played it by the rules, coming up with a multitude of creative ways to make it clear how unwanted this development is and that it goes against everything our community stands for. We have fought Tesco through the planning system, making an overwhelmingly strong case, backed by lawyers. Our objections clearly outlined how opening this Tesco store would pose a threat to public safety. But at a packed planning committee meeting it became astonishingly clear that the council were too fearful of the financial implications to refuse Tesco permission to go ahead. Our community is well known for having people who, if they are silenced, will act in a way that will ensure they will be heard.

The rioting in Stokes Croft last night is the result of a community being entirely ignored – there are people who are more than willing to break the law to remain true to what they believe.

Earlier this year, Bristol City council announced cuts of £28m and the loss of 340 jobs. Is Tesco in a position to ignore the rising costs of policing their new store when last night’s events involved the cost of three regional police forces and subsequent repair of damage?

I was in Stokes Croft last night and was truly overwhelmed by the vast police presence and number of people. Feeling threatened in my own community is upsetting but the truth is people feel completely disempowered, and for some resorting to last night’s actions seems the only way people will listen.

I will never condone violence and smashing up Tesco is not my approach but I am clear that the damage caused to Tesco’s property last night is relatively insignificant compared to the damage Tesco has been able to inflict on this community.

Bristol City council has a clear choice now: continue to let Tesco trade and risk last night becoming a regular occurrence or support the community it is supposed to represent and tell Tesco to leave. © Guardian News & Media Limited 2011 | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds