Councillors voted by 4-3 in favour of allowing Tesco to open. The remaining barriers, according to our  planning system were the noise assesment to the rear, where Tesco intend to install huge freezers and chiller rooms. The detail of the  shop fronts were also in dispute, and it was also considered by the Anti- Tesco group that there had been no impact assessment over servicing of the proposed retail unit, and that this should be a material consideration.

Councillors, who voted in favour of Tesco were, Cllr. Mark Bradshaw, Cllr. Kent, Cllr.Clark, and Cllr. a.n.other…

Councillors who voted against were, Cllr. Chris Windows, Cllr. Derek Pickup, and Cllr. and Chairperson Alex Woodman. In his summing up, Alex Woodman said that “In the back of his mind that Tesco would probably go to appeal”, and that BCC would have to foot the legal bill…

The meeting was well attended, and the speeches submitted were universally against permission being given to Tesco. Most poignant of these speeches was that of Richard Fox of Radford Mill Organic Farm Shop in Picton Street, whose business will be directly affected. He questioned what the planning process was for, suggesting that it should be about delivering what is good for the Community and, indeed, the planet. Claire Milne, who heads up the No Tesco campaign, had succeeded in drawing together a vast array of relevant information, which clearly gave our elected councillors sufficient leeway to refuse planninng permission had they been so minded to do…

Chris Chalkley of PRSC attempted to expound clearly what had happened over the last 12 months, and what was at stake. His speech is reported below:


At this late juncture, I think it is perhaps appropriate to review the journey that has brought us to this point, because this will help us to see more clearly.

The applicant, Tesco PLC, applied for change of use in the name of an agent, with a Bath address, fulfilling the minimum legal requirement for consultation. ie. a small ad in the Evening Post, one A4 poster in the street, and 50 letters to locals, to which there were no replies to the Planning Dept.

As soon as Tesco’s possible arrival became common knowledge, there was furore. 2500 complaints were sent to the planning dept. 93% of locals who were surveyed said that they did not want a supermarket in the former Jesters Comedy Club. On top of this, the building was squatted by locals who started to use the buildings as a community space. These squatters were evicted by bailiffs in March at a reported cost of £60,000. It is still not clear who footed that bill.

It is difficult to imagine that Tesco PLC did not expect resistance…

Since then, five security guards have guarded the property 24hours a day, seven days a week. Barricaded front and rear, the property resembles a military encampment. Can this supermarket that claims that “Community is at the Heart of everything we do” really be in such fear of the community they intend to serve?

It is our contention that the Community was hoodwinked: Because the local community forfeited the right to make its opinions felt from the beginning,  we have been forced to fight this campaign on narrow grounds. Today we are notionally here to discuss shop fronts, congestion and probable noise levels. The proposed retail shop front, which will permanently combine what was originally three shop fronts, makes a mockery of the notion of conservation of traditional streetscape. Furthermore,The No Tesco campaign has clearly shown that the likely amount of servicing by large delivery lorries required by the proposed supermarket will cause serious and prolonged traffic congestion on a main arterial road, and on a bus lane. The proposed refrigeration units to the rear will be noisy, and though the noise report submitted is slick, it is clearly misleading.

Even on the narrow planning grounds where the No Tesco campaign has been forced to fight, it is abundantly clear what the applicant is attempting to do: By seeking to cram as much as possible into a space that is clearly not designed for such an operation, Tesco have shown that their goal is retail conquest by any means possible. This will certainly be damaging to the fragile but enduring local economy, and this is not acceptable. Net local employment would be certain to fall.

I would remind you that Stokes Croft and Montpelier are both designated Conservation areas, both defined by their independent local businessesand by their alternative culture, characteristics which are treasured to the extent that Stokes Croft now defines itself as “Bristol’s Cultural Quarter”. The proposed incursion of a ubiquitous supermarket chain represents the very antithesis of our Community’s aspirations.

It falls to you today, councillors, to decide where you stand. The incredibly hard working and diligent No Tesco campaigners have given you sufficient reasons to back the aspirations of our communityand to refuse Tesco’s application. It is up to you now to make your choice.

There is a clear change in the way the political wind is blowing.

I quote from Our own Government.’s Community and Local Govt. website, published on Dec. 6th, just two days ago :

Eric Pickles, Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, said :

“For far too long local people have had too little say over a planning system that has imposed bureaucratic decisions by distant officials in Whitehall and the town hall. We need to change things so there is more people-planning and less politician-planning, so there is more direct democracy and less bureaucracy in the system. These reforms will become the building blocks of the Big Society.”

Greg Clark, Minister for Planning and Decentralisation, added:

“Most people love where they live, yet the planning system has given them almost no say on how their neighbourhood develops. The Coalition Government will revolutionise the planning process by taking power away from officials and putting it into the hands of those who know most about their neighbourhood – local people themselves. This will be a huge opportunity for communities to exercise genuine influence over what their home town should look like in the future. It will create the freedom and the incentives for those places that want to grow, to do so, and to reap the benefits. ”

Our own Central Government has finally recognised the failure of our planning system to deliver decisions that make sense, and will soon cede decision making to local community groups.

I urge you to heed the winds of change, indeed to be in the vanguard of this change. Take courage, back the local community and refuse to allow any supermarket chain into our community, by all means possible.

Unfortunately, our councillors were not listening…were not listening to the people who elect them to act in their interests. The meeting ended in uproar. Cries of “Shame” rang around the room, and severl people were physically ejected by security, including Mr. Chalkley.

Stokes Croft has been blighted by poor planning decisions for decades. This is another of these, and clearly calls into question the legitimacy of the planners and our Councillors to act on our behalf.

Our Central Government is on the verge of publishing a new Localism Bill, which is at the heart of the Coalition’s new shiny plans for Mr. Cameron’s Big Society. Perhaps this decision will be the catalyst that kickstarts the process whereby our local areas demand real autonomy.

As Claire Milne writes on the bottom of all her e-mails:

“Another world is not only possible, she is on her way. On a quiet day I can hear her breathing”
Arundhati Roy