Tesco shopped to the OFT

Alice Bloch 1 November 2007

A Cambridge Councillor has reported Tesco to the Office of Fair Trading (OFT), calling for an investigation into the supermarket’s plans to build a store on Mill Road.

The supermarket giant, which has a massive 30% share of the UK grocery market, already has three supermarkets and three Express stores in Cambridge. Campaigners hope that a fourth is not on its way.

Local opposition to the new store has been strong, as 4000 people have signed a petition to prevent Tesco from preying on this diverse area of the city. Councillors have joined citizens in their strident struggle against the multi-national corporation.

Last month, Liberal Democrat Councillor Alice Douglas told The Cambridge Student (TCS) that “opening a Tesco store could put some of these stores out of business and change Mill Road for the worse”. Now, the head of Cambridge City Council, Ian Nimmo-Smith, has demanded that the plans for a new Tesco be scrutinised by the Competition Commission.

Controversy has surrounded the Tesco application since the summer. Nimmo-Smith has claimed that the proposed supermarket will threaten the area’s “diverse but fragile range of local independent shops and services”.

He urged the OFT to act before the council rules on Tesco’s planning application next month.

In his letter to the OFT, Nimmo-Smith stated that the new Sustainable Communities Bill – supported by the Council – would “place a renewed responsibility on Government in resisting the spread of Ghost Town Britain”.

Richard Rippin, media coordinator for the ‘No Mill Road Tesco’ group, welcomed the move. He told the Cambridge Evening News: “We are delighted we have cross party support at the city council and that Councillor Nimmo-Smith has taken the step of referring this matter to the OFT.

“The incredibly strong feeling among local people and local politicians gives us confidence that together we can keep Tesco out and keep Mill Road special.”

Rippin also commented on the progress of Tesco’s negotiations with the council. He claimed to TCS that “Tesco are trying to butter up the council”. But, in Rippin’s opinion the application should be rejected – “in fact, it’s really hard to see how it won’t be”.

According to Rippin, “student representation was near zero” at the last planning meeting. He encourages students to spread the word. The campaign group is organising a week of action starting on November 17th, including a benefit gig, a march on Mill Road, and a speaker event at the Guildhall.

Alice Bloch