Marcus Evans Group | Worldwide Headquarters | American Offices | Latin America | European Offices | African / Asian Offices

Response: Tesco listens. We don’t ‘grind down resistance’ to our new stores

We do not ignore planning rules or public opinion. We only go where local people want us

George Monbiot is right that people should be able to shape their communities through the planning system and local democracy (Our planning system is authorised blackmail – and it’s about to get worse, 27 September). He is very mistaken, however, when he cites the Norfolk town of Sheringham as an example of a community where this did not happen.

Monbiot claims that, in Sheringham, “The people made it clear repeatedly that they did not want Tesco to move in, but in October last year the council broke.” In fact Tesco was granted planning permission in Sheringham after the local council conducted an official poll to determine views in the area, a long way from a process which “grinds down the resistance of local people” as Monbiot suggested.

Local people voted three to one in favour of a supermarket on a turnout of 44%. They also preferred Tesco’s town-centre plan to a rival out-of-town development. They did not “[make] it clear repeatedly that they did not want Tesco to move in”. The suggestion that this is a “totalitarian form of capitalism” is totally misplaced.

Monbiot is also inaccurate when it comes to our small Express convenience store in Stokes Croft, Bristol. It is wrong to say that the council received objections to our development “yet granted it permission” anyway. The site already had planning permission when we bought it.

Nobody is challenging this or the operation of our store on the site. What is taking place is a judicial review over the process used by the council to decide on the installation of air-conditioning and other minor plant. It is not Tesco but the campaigners who are forcing the council to use council tax-payers’ money to defend this technical decision in the courts. Like Monbiot, I also hope the expense of this court action does not add further pressure on council services.

Although it wasn’t an easy start for our staff in Stokes Croft when the store opened in May, the overwhelming feedback we have had since from local businesses and residents is that they are pleased we made this investment. Far more customers used the store last week than the numbers who Monbiot said had signed a petition against it opening. We have brought a derelict building back to life and created new jobs. Local people hope we will be a catalyst for further regeneration in the area.

Of course there will always be debate about what’s right for any community. All we seek to do is put forward our ideas for local investment, improve them in response to feedback, and let locally elected politicians decide.

That’s exactly what we are doing in Machynlleth. The council told us that they thought the store we were proposing was too big. We listened and submitted a new proposal for a smaller one. This has attracted significant local support. It is now for the council to decide whether to grant us planning permission. Perhaps not everyone likes the result. But this isn’t “authorised blackmail”. It’s democracy. © 2011 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved. | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds