As Moseley residents battled and lost in their fight against plans for a new Tesco store, Neil Elkes looks at the surge of Britain’s biggest retailer and asks whether it is the negative influence portrayed by some.
More than 2,000 people signed petitions against the new Tesco on the derelict Meteor Ford site in Moseley.
There were concerns over traffic congestion, inadequate parking and impact on small traders, but amid accusations of bullying and legal threats, the store, along with a health centre and sheltered flats, was approved last week.
Those intent on refusal had already been warned by a lawyer acting for developer Exmax that they could be reported to the Standards Board for maladministration and even be financially liable for the council’s legal costs if the plan was refused.
An onlooker could only wonder how a major company would want to open up in an area where it was apparently most unwelcome.
But over the last decade this scene has played out in scores of towns, districts and cities across the UK as Tesco, under the celebrated leadership of chief executive Sir Terry Leahy, has aggressively expanded.
The rise of Tesco and other major supermarket players has also been made easier by changes to planning legislation, which makes it more difficult for councils to turn down applications for retail schemes unless they wildly conflict with statutory development plans.
It has used Clubcard data to track customer behaviour and moved into more and more neighbourhoods.
Five years ago there were just three major Tesco stores in Birmingham, at Edgbaston, Sheldon and New Oscott. But today there are six, with Witton, Hodge Hill and Spring Hill now open, Plus the Swan Centre at Yardley under construction and Moseley presumably in the pipeline.
Add to this the New Street Tesco Metro and a total of 26 branches of the Express convenience stores and there has been a pretty steep growth in recent years.
The company employs 1,790 people in the city, and many more across the region.
Philip Singleton, the former Birmingham City Council regeneration chief who now runs his own consultancy Facilitate Urban, said that Tesco has been remarkably effective.