‘Go away Tesco’: Belsize residents demand end to supermarket giant’s ‘hypocrisy’

Community campaigners protest outside the site of the proposed new Tesco in Belsize this morning. Pi

Community campaigners protest outside the site of the proposed new Tesco in Belsize this morning. Picture: Polly Hancock - Credit: Polly Hancock

Around 70 angry protesters today gathered at the site of a planned Tesco supermarket in Belsize Park to mark the official start of a campaign to block the store from opening there.

The group, including actor Tom Conti, held banners and branded umbrellas to shield themselves from pouring rain as they gathered in Haverstock Hill at 7am to give the supermarket giant the message “go away”.

They accused the new Tesco CEO David Lewis of “hypocrisy” as the protest coincided with his announcement that the troubled company would close its headquarters and 43 other unprofitable small convenience stores across the UK.

Belsize councillor Leila Roy, helping with the campaign, said: “It doesn’t make sense.

“Why open a new Tesco where you are not wanted, when you are closing down other shops.

“Mr Lewis says he wants the company to be more transparent and open, but he submitted this application to Camden just before Christmas Eve, when everyone was away.

“This is the opposite of transparency and is very hypocritical.”

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More than 1,000 people have already signed a petition against the plans for the store on the former HSBC site on the corner of Belsize Grove and Haverstock Hill.

They fear it will destroy the community feel of the high street by driving out much-loved independent shops, cause traffic chaos and is not needed when there are already two other Tesco stores close by.

The proposals came to light on December 22 when Tesco submitted a licensing application to serve alcohol at the site.

Mr Conti said: “It’s about a powerful institution pushing smaller people around.

“I am not against healthy competition, but this is the unacceptable face of competition.

“The small shops which are part of this community will be the losers and will be forced to close down.

“Tesco are not wanted here and should listen to what people are saying.”

Campaigner Linda Grove said: “This is a strong community. We know all the people in our community shops by name. “They know us personally and support our local campaigns. It is like living in a village.”

Martin Callaghan, who runs the independent deli Pomona and fears he may be forced to close if Tesco arrives, said: “I am amazed by the depth of feeling among local people. It’s incredible.

“Since Christmas people haven’t been talking about anything else.

“People are coming in to support us and making a big effort.

“They are really going out of their way to do something - here they are at 7am in the rain. I am moved by the support.

“It will be interesting to see whether Tesco listens.”

A spokesman for Tesco said: “We consider new store locations where we think we can bring something new and different customers will appreciate.

“We’re proud of the contribution we make to every community we serve, creating jobs, supporting local charities and groups, and providing affordable, high quality fresh food to local people.

“We are in the process of sending letters to the local community inviting their views on the proposed new store and will work closely with them as our plans progress.”