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'Tescoville' fears as new store opens in Marylebone

PUBLISHED: 11:33 19 November 2009 | UPDATED: 16:33 07 September 2010

Sanchez Manning MARYLEBONE is in danger of turning into Tescoville once the supermarket giant opens its fifth outlet in the area, say residents and local traders. A new Tesco Express store will take over a vacant lot at 92-98 in George Street, it emerge

Sanchez Manning

MARYLEBONE is in danger of turning into "Tescoville" once the supermarket giant opens its fifth outlet in the area, say residents and local traders.

A new Tesco Express store will take over a vacant lot at 92-98 in George Street, it emerged this week. It will join four existing stores in nearby Lisson Grove, Marylebone High Street, Melcombe Street and Baker Street.

But Tesco's plans have caused anger among both residents and independent shop keepers, who say the last thing Marylebone needs is another Tesco.

People living close to George Street worry about the impact it will have on smaller shops and the possibility of a late drinking licence being granted.

Carl Upsall, chairman of the Marylebone Association, said: "Tesco has put a notice up on the site saying it is applying for a drinks licence that will operate seven days a week up until 11pm.

"The store will be right next to a pub, which means people will be rolling out of the bar and getting a few more drinks to take home. The fact is that it's the fifth one in the area gives the sense that Marylebone is turning into Tescoville."

Small traders say their businesses are likely to suffer if Tesco starts siphoning off their trade - particularly in the run up to Christmas.

Arif Halil, who owns Blanford Fruit Stores on Blanford Street, opposite George Street, said: "They don't want anyone else to make a living. They just want to dominate the market."

Mr Halil, who has been trading in Marylebone since 1976, said he has seen many of the area's independent shops driven out because of a mixture of high rents and the arrival of large supermarkets.

"Four greengrocers, a butchers and a fishmongers have all closed down," he said. "People are busy and don't have time to go to individual shops - they go to the big supermarkets instead so they can get everything under one roof."

Madid Khan, manager of AD Food on Baker Street, agreed.

He said: "When a Tesco opens, small shops close straight away. Obviously we are worried about another Tesco opening but we'll just have to see what happens."

John Walker, Westminster's operational director for development planning, said the council has no control over who occupies the site in George Street - this is the responsibility of the landlords, the Portman Estate and Derwent London.

He said: "As the site consists of existing retail units Tesco, just like any other retailer, can occupy them without the need for any formal permission."

But Cllr Brian Connell, the council's economic development chief, said the power to stop more Tesco stores opening was in the hands of residents.

"The loss of small, independent shops to dominant supermarkets is an issue right across the country and is a reflection in the dramatic changes in people's shopping habits," said Cllr Connell. "Marylebone High Street is an example of an area which boasts a distinctive selection of independent retailers alongside major supermarket names to great success.

"But local people hold the real power here, and if they shop locally and support their independent traders then they can make a real difference and help ensure they don't just survive, but also thrive.

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