More than 1,000 people have joined a campaign to block the “Tesco-isation” of their local pub — which they claim will destroy the village atmosphere of North Kensington.
Opponents of a move by the supermarket giant to turn the North Pole pub in North Pole Road into a Tesco Express say there are already seven Tesco outlets within two miles of the pub, which, until it closed earlier this year after 173 years, had the distinction of being David and Samantha Cameron’s local. They claim the new mini supermarket will be “soulless” and have draped a huge banner across the front of the pub declaring: “Bog Off Tesco”.
Three separate petitions have been raised opposing the plan, predicting increased traffic, parking problems and ensuing pedestrian safety issues. It will also, they say, kill off the small struggling local independent shops valued by the community. But a Tesco spokesman says the new shop will bring more buyers to the street and help local traders.
Petitions to Kensington & Chelsea Council say as shops close, and choice goes, shoppers will be forced into a ‘soulless’ store with self-service checkouts and robot-like trained staff who have no time or desire to engage in conversation with locals.
Protesters say the presence of a Tesco Express will be serious enough to drag down local property values. “Locked up shops due to trading practices of Tesco will attract charity shops, more unsocial elements and crime and disorder,” warns the petition.
There has been a pub on the site since around 1839 and John Wild, one of those who signed the petition, said: “This pub was an historical landmark, and community pub. Stop ripping the life out of London. We want our pub back."
Councillor Matthew Palmer backs the protest. “A mini mart will ruin the whole “village” around it. Most of the surrounding shops will be at risk of closing including a Post Office, butcher, three provision shops, two cafés and a fish and chip shop.”
Nonetheless, Kensington and Chelsea Council’s Planning Applications Committee is expected to approve Tesco’s plan this week because the proposal is, in aesthetic terms, acceptable.
There is already a Tesco Express at Holland Park, Notting Hill and Kensal Rise, and a Tesco Metro on Portobello Road.
A Tesco spokesman pointed out that the pub closed down this summer. “A new Express store here will bring more shoppers to North Pole Road, benefiting other local traders too,” he said.
“Through conversations with local people, we have made sure we’re respecting the architecture and heritage of the building, and we think we can provide a popular and beneficial addition to the shopping parade.”