Thursday, August 28, 2008

Tesco lose - again

Tesco are such losers. Their nefarious plans to move into Mill Road are doomed and now they've had to abandon their plans to build Tescopia - commonly known round here as the Hanley Grange eco-town. Top news.

A corporate homunculus said "we recognise a proposal of this type has implications not only for the local area but the region. We also believe a genuinely sustainable community stands the best chance of being successful if a broad range of stakeholders in the region feel fully engaged in the process leading up to a decision. We believe this is most likely to be achieved through a review of the Regional Spatial Strategy."

Although Tesco still own the land (and after all there seems to be little land that they do not own) all plans for taking part in an eco-town are being shelved. Quite possibly for good.

Eco-towns are part of this government's plan to try to do what they wanted to do anyway by putting the suffix eco- in front of the policy. A bit like the war on terror really, only with beans rather than bombs. The eco-town legislation allows the government to bypass local planning processes but has little to do with sustainable communities. Hanley Grange was designed to take 50 houses per hectare, a government maximum that has never before been achieved. Simulating the film Soylent Green has far more to do with targets on house building than any long term commitment to the environment.

Local campaigners weren't fooled for a moment and the mainly rural community managed an extremely vigorous campaign to prevent this travesty taking place. It's hard enough to organise in urban areas but activists managed to gain wide spread and active support around the region - which has eventually pressured the government and Tesco back onto the back foot. Tesco even acknowledges that the local community were simply not up for their schemes.

Everywhere Tesco goes there are those who oppose it. Often these communities win and the feeling of elation - like that of David defeating Goliath - is a joy to behold but we need to remember Tesco is an every expanding beast. These victories slow its expansion, we've yet to take the battle back to the monster's lair.

The growing network of campaigners, mostly informal and non party partisan, shows that where a community fights it can knock a corporate giant on its arse. Break out the economy apple juice, it's time to celebrate and hatch plots on how to turn the fight against one villain into a fight against villainy in general.

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