I am very heartened at the news that Tesco has given into public pressure and withdrawn a plan to build a superstore at Tolworth, near Kingston, Surrey. There are many parallels with St Albans. The Tolworth site is also located on a congested highway, and local residents protested about the impact on nearby residential and shopping streets. This shows that public protest can work.
I congratulate the “Tolworth Residents against Overdevelopment” campaign group on their victory. I plan to learn from their experience by meeting Lib Dem MP Ed Davey in whose constituency the Tolworth development was scheduled to take place. He was a leading opponent of the Tesco scheme there. Intriguingly, Tesco has not withdrawn from the Tolworth site. It has issued a statement saying:
Rather than push forward with the original application, we have decided to give local people a greater opportunity to participate in the development of this prominent location. Tesco will remain an important part of these plans, but we would like to redesign our plans with the help of local people.
Amen to that, say I. What’s good for Tolworth would be good for St Albans too. There is no reason why Tesco should not make a commercial success of their site, but by consulting with local residents on a multi-use scheme of appropriate scale rather than dropping a nuclear bomb onto the centre of St Albans. For those that want them, we have produced a rather eye-catching poster saying “Stop Tesco” in red and blue. Copies can be downloaded from www.stoptesco.org.uk which also carries general news about the plan.