The Tesco Fiasco

A recent trip to my chiropractor in Godalming took me past the former site of one of my favourite old public houses, the Wey Inn. I remember how aged just 18, friends and I used to spend hour upon hour in the establishment, which at the time was famed for its local ale and the eight English Pool tables in the adjoining shed.

The pub, which was named after the river on which it looks across now sits derelict and boarded up; a shell of the vibrant, busy building it always used to be.

As a member of the campaign for real ale (CAMRA), I could spend hours detailing the dwindling pub trade and exploring the reasons why so many of our local pubs are closing down but what struck me as I drove past the Wey Inn (apart from the nostalgia) was a sign that had been defiantly placed on the hoarding around the derelict pub.

A local community group has erected a sign that simply reads ‘FIASCO’ - designed in Tesco’s branding and colour scheme; the message is clear. The Wey Inn has been earmarked as another site for a new Tesco Metro store and unsurprisingly there is some opposition in the area and not just from the Real Ale community.

Aside from the fact that Tesco has been exploiting a legal loophole that allows them to convert pubs into supermarkets without the need for planning permission, the local community is unhappy with many aspects of the proposed development, not least that it would be the third supermarket chain in a one-mile radius, effectively killing all independent newsagents and grocers in the area. Similar Tesco retail stores with housing units are also planned close to the CIB offices in Ashtead and Fetcham, as the supermarket partners with social housing provider Circle Housing.

But these projects are now all under threat as Tesco has been facing big problems lately, problems that have been well documented.

The company, which is widely known as a one of the country’s biggest landowners, recently found a £250 million black hole in its accounts, prompting new CEO Dave Lewis to declare that Tesco will be getting back to its core business.

Assuming that core business is indeed in the FMCG industry, the housebuilder market will be fully aware that this latest fumble by Tesco means it will have to sell some of the land that it had already earmarked for housebuilding.

So, one wrongly placed decimal point and the housebuilder market has opened up even more! Less competition and more available land in urban areas can only be a good thing, especially if the small to medium housebuilders are given a fair opportunity to buy available land, build communities and perhaps even create more local pubs!

Developers, big or small, should be aware though. Tesco’s most recent attempt at building apartments resulted in this monstrosity.

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