Wolf Hall star Damian Lewis and Dame Janet Suzman bid to stop Tesco in Belsize Park

Damian Lewis. Picture: PA/Dominic Lipinski.

Damian Lewis. Picture: PA/Dominic Lipinski. - Credit: PA Archive/Press Association Ima

Actors Damian Lewis and Dame Janet Suzman have backed the campaign to stop Tesco opening a new store in Belsize Park.

Dame Janet Suzman at the Stop Tesco meeting at St Stephen's. Picture: Polly Hancock.

Dame Janet Suzman at the Stop Tesco meeting at St Stephen's. Picture: Polly Hancock. - Credit: Archant

Dame Janet summed up the feeling of thousands in the Belsize Park community when she told a heated public meeting: “I am most definitely no to Tesco”.

To rapturous applause from the 150-strong audience, the actress likened the protestors opposing a planned new Tesco store in Belsize Park to Oliver Cromwell’s army during the Reformation.

She told the crowd at St Stephen’s, in Pond Street, on Tuesday: “Something is in the air and around the place and something has got to give.

“You are all small cogs in a huge wheel. There is turmoil at Tesco. They have had a dizzy fall and sales are plummeting, they have a bad history of putting pressure on suppliers.

“I propose Tesco is in a perfect position now to redraw the parameters and have a little reconsideration. This idea of plonking a chain store into a local village high street, I think it is damaging.”

The actress has enlisted the support of fellow actor and Homeland star Damian Lewis.

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She said: “Independent shops, he [Lewis] says, are vital for the community for diversity and social interaction. Neighbourhoods are happier places for them yet another Tesco would badly undermine this.”

In her emotional call to battle, Dame Janet then quoted another Wolf Hall actor, Mark Rylance, by comparing the protesters against Tesco to Oliver Cromwell’s supporters breaking away from the Catholic Church during the English Reformation,

She said: “I feel we face the same kind of thing now from corporate power - the difficulty of the village to say we don’t want a Tesco ruining the character of our village.”

She then attacked Camden Council for failing to take into account a neighbourhood’s “uniqueness” when making decisions.

She urged the council to consider setting up a special “zoning” committee, like in US city Boston, to protect neighbourhoods from planning decisions which do not fit into the context of the neighbourhood.

“I think we should go to root of the matter,” she said. “Are Camden Council working for us?”

Three representatives from Tesco sat at the front of the hall to hear independent traders, community campaigners, local residents and councillors attack the supermarket giant’s plans to open a new convenience store on the former HSBC bank site, on the corner of Haverstock Hill and Belsize Grove.

Campaigner Linda Grove spoke of the threat to the popular existing independent traders, who have supported community projects.

She said: “We are a village and we are a community. Many places in the countryside don’t have the villagey atmosphere we have.”

Belsize councillor Leila Roy said: “Now 2,800 people have signed our petition. People in this area don’t want a second Tesco. We already have one four minutes away in England’s Lane.

“Why do you insist on coming to a place where people are sending a clear message they do not want you?”

But Tesco spokesman Roberto Munez said: “I have walked around the area and there are a lot of traders and local people in favour of a new store. They are just not at the meeting tonight.”

After the meeting, he added: “We know it will be a popular site. It’s about giving customers choice.”