Villages set to tackle Tesco

PARISH councils across north Essex are to hold a special meeting to tackle supermarket giant Tesco after it was accused of sucking the life out of local business, it has emerged.

PARISH councils across north Essex are to hold a special meeting to tackle supermarket giant Tesco after it was accused of sucking the life out of local business, it has emerged.

At least three villages in the Tendring area are arranging a meeting to discuss how the growing presence of Tesco is damaging local communities.

Plans for the meeting between parishes in Thorpe-le-Soken, Manningtree and Great Bentley emerged after the corporate giant was accused of a “creeping megalomania”.

But the country's number one grocer, which nets £1 in every £8 spent by UK consumers, insisted its move into the convenience store sector was not killing off communities, but was rather a “great British success story”.

Tesco came under attack from investors and campaign groups yesterday as it addressed its first annual meeting since becoming the first British retailer to post annual profits of £2billion.

Private shareholder Donovan Winter said: "What concerns me is the spread of stores that you have, this creeping megalomania. Everywhere you go, you see an Express.

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"It's like a plague of locusts, they are sucking the lifeblood out of local enterprises.

"Where do you see a local family butcher, or a fishmonger or greengrocer? They are being driven out of business. Local people are losing the personal service.”

The EADT revealed last week that small traders in Colchester's traditional Crouch Street feared their businesses would be crippled if rumours that Tesco was about to move in proved true.

The company already has two large stores in the town and it will open a new one on the outskirts of Clacton on Monday.

In addition, it has a growing number of smaller Express outlets which are causing concern for many of the county's villagers.

Robert Taylor, chairman of Great Bentley Parish Council, said residents were split over the Tesco presence in his community and backed plans to meet fellow villages.

He said local businesses had been affected, but added there was also anger about noisy delivery lorries and uncooperative truck drivers blocking narrow village streets.

“Our local butcher was not able to compete on price so he's had to stop doing individualised cuts and sell pre-packed meat instead, so that's a service lost.

“But it's the lorries that are the main problems – they're just not appropriate for villages like ours.”

His complaint was echoed in both Manningtree, where the parish council is still negotiating with Tesco about how goods are delivered, and Thorpe-le-Soken whose parish council chairman, Brian Healey, said: “We welcome Tesco's presence in some ways, but it's the problems they cause alongside it that really angers people. The meeting would really help us fight the issues together.”

However, Tesco chairman David Reid said the claim his company was wiping out the community sector was a "total myth” and added that the UK still had a vibrant independent grocery sector.

He said Tesco's network of around 550 convenience stores represented just a small proportion of the country's total.

"When you talk about a plague of locusts, we are still a small operator in the market,” he said.

A number of campaigners protested outside the meeting in central London at Tesco's dominance of the supermarket sector.

They criticised the company for its treatment of farmers, overseas workers and the environment, claims which were rejected by Tesco.

Tesco's expansion overseas and into areas as diverse as personal finance, books and music has contributed to its dominance of the sector.

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