Tesco has applied to open an Express Store in the empty Oddfellows pub in Ore Village. This is a bad business.
Last night we went to the well attended public meeting. Two people were there from Tesco - one a 'Communications Consultant', and the other a young woman who had been working for Tesco for only six months. Neither of them put up a remotely convincing performance, and clearly neither had done their homework about the local area.
I have seen places where the addition of a new national chain 'local' store can enhance the quality of shopping and hence the footfall. Ore is not such a place, for the reasons listed below.
The objections to a Tesco in Ore are clear:
1. The site is not physically suitable. The old pub is jammed into the 'V' of the junction of the A259 and Fairlight Road, surrounded by double yellow lines, bus stops etc. Deliveries would increase congestion on already very busy roads, and there is no parking provision. Tesco clearly do not expect customers for the new store to arrive by car, but they will try - and park illegally, causing yet more congestion and safety hazards.
2. The community is already very well-served by the existing Ore shops, and by the Co-op. Tesco would sell nothing different or extra. The Tesco representative said that most Express customers come from within a 500 metre radius of the store - i.e they walk there. There is only a finite population within 500 metres of Ore Village, and presumably they already use the Ore shops. Logically, then, any trade for the new store will be taken away from existing shops.
3. The 'get out of jail' card of 'creating 20 jobs' has already been played by Tesco. In fact, given that existing stores would either have to lay off staff or close altogether, the net jobs gain would probably be nil.
4. It was conceded that the principal competition for the new store would be the Co-op. However, the Co-op is part of a trusted national chain with high standards of ethics. Over the years it has built good links with the local community, and above all, it is a good store with an excellent range of goods for its size. It even has a car park, on its flat roof. There is no good reason for allowing Tesco to attack the Co-op through meaningless, cut-throat competition. Also, as a national chain, Tesco is known to have lost its 'edge', and to have taken some poor strategic decisions. It is not easy to trust what they say.
5. The Tesco representatives were asked what the new store would bring to the community. All they could come up with was some general flannel about food banks in other stores (using goods donated by customers, I assume), and giving £500.00 to local charities. Even if they had done a shred of research about their proposed catchment area, they would know, for example, that it includes pockets of high social and economic deprivation. It should not have been hard to tailor their flannel accordingly, and showed that for Tesco, commitment to community regeneration does not run deep.
6. Clearly, the local community does not want Tesco. A petition with nearly 2,000 signatures was handed to the Tesco representative. It would be interesting to know the population of the stores proposed catchment area.....
However, Tesco does not have to apply for planning permission to use the pub premises, only for minor alterations to the building. It will be easy for the Planning Committee to accede to Tesco and nod this through.
Clearly, something has to happen to the empty building, which is now becoming run-down. In the ideal world, it should be a pub again - a community owned cafe-bar? Or maybe the Library could move into the building? I know these things cost money, which people do not have....However, Tesco is probably the worst use possible. It would be better to knock the whole building down and make a car park.