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Traders voice anger over Tesco plans

PUBLISHED: 15:30 27 February 2006 | UPDATED: 16:22 25 February 2010

The site of a proposed Tesco store at Barfield Road, West Mersea

The site of a proposed Tesco store at Barfield Road, West Mersea

A NEW Tesco store could “rip the heart out” of a small island community in Essex, it has been warned.

The supermarket giant has put in for planning permission for one of its “Express” outlets at a disused petrol station on West Mersea.

'Tecsno' campaign group posters on the window of another proposed store in Crouch Street, Colchester

A NEW Tesco store could “rip the heart out” of a small island community in Essex, it has been warned.

The supermarket giant has put in for planning permission for one of its “Express” outlets at a disused petrol station on West Mersea.

Tesco has said there was a “real need” for a food retailer on the island but traders and even the local vicar have ridiculed their claim.

West Mersea already has a Co-Op near to the proposed site as well as numerous independent businesses which operate successfully.

Butcher Daniel Sutton, who knows most of his customers by name

But it is feared that if Tesco is given the green light many of the small traders could be forced to close.

Local opposition is growing against the plans and about 1,400 people have already signed a petition against the store opening in Barfield Road.

The opposition echoes that felt in Crouch Street, Colchester, where another Tesco Express is set to open.

Daniel Sutton, who works at Arthur Cock and Son Butchers, said: “It would be naïve to think it won't have an impact on us at all but it will be the smaller stores which will disappear.

“There will be less passing trade for the smaller shops - this will rip the heart out of the community because a lot of the islanders use their shopping trips as a way of getting out and meeting people, especially the more elderly people.

“We know most of our customers by name, which is unusual in this day and age. We have been here for about 110 years and Mersea has survived quite nicely without Tesco so far and so have our customers.”

He said the character of the town had remained the same for the past 25 years, compared to so many places which have ended up with “faceless high streets”.

Kevin Markham, owner of Mersea Island Trading Post, said he would be happy to see a boycott of the new Tesco Express, a tactic which led to the eventual closure of one in Norwich.

And many of his customers have been telling him they will not go into the new Tesco Express.

He said: “We have a thriving community here but it is also something of a back water with a 'time gone by' feel to it.

“That is why people come here and fall in love with the place and want to live here. It has not been commercialised over the years and it is one of the few places which has still got quintessential charm.

“This Tesco Express would bring a large element of commercialism to the island - it is a big company and they can claim it will do good things for the community but the reality is that the small businesses will suffer.

“The shops here are not making fortunes but it is the life we choose to have - then along comes the big boy and we lose it all.

“It is a way of life which is under threat here, you only have to go to Maldon to see the number of shops which have closed or are up for sale since Tesco opened there.”

The Reverend Sam Norton, has also hit out against Tesco, saying it will not be a sustainable long term operation. He has even written a web log, or “blog”, describing why he is against Tesco.

He said: “Sustainability, that is the key thing from my point of view - I am not against Capitalism as a whole, but the fact is that cheap oil is coming to an end in the near future and we, as a community, will put ourselves in a vulnerable position if we get rid of small shops.

“We need to get back to local food, such as apples, instead of having them come in from New Zealand.

“Tesco is short-term gain for long-term pain and I have no doubt that it will cause smaller shops to go to the wall.”

But Tesco spokeswoman, Carol Leslie, said: “A planning application has gone in on a disused petrol filling station. The site is on a district centre in a very good location.”

She confirmed the company was hoping to put up an artwork on the new site that is “in keeping with West Mersea's sailing heritage”.

She said: “We're regenerating that site. We felt there was a real need for a food retailer there.”

She said that Tesco had received no objections to their proposals, but suggested that if there had been

complaints in West Mersea, that they may have well have come from local traders.

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