The intentions of the 50 odd people who squeezed into Walnut last night were noble but, unfortunately, I fear that the whole endeavour will ultimately prove fruitless.
The general feeling was one of not wanting Tesco to set up a new store in Fortune Green at all. However, the new development (by the cemetery, where the pub, car dealership and garage used to be) has been granted an A1 retail space as part of its planning permission application. It turns out that no-one can do anything about what business then sets up in that retail space. So if you don’t want a Tesco, unlucky.
Discussion then moved onto whether the supermarket could at least be denied a liquor licence. But due to the proximity of other local stores (like Atlanta on West End Lane), which have such a licence, this too seemed unlikely.
As for calls by campaigners to impose larger fines on the Tesco delivery lorries that repeatedly flout parking regulations across the area – not going to happen. It was explained by Flick Rea, who has been a local councillor for longer than I have been alive, that complex changes to legislation have to take place before such altered penalty fines can be imposed.
Right, so we can’t stop a Tesco from opening in Fortune Green, and we can’t punish the retail giant for troublesome delivery antics. So, if you really want Tesco to leave your high street, as Flick Rea put it, “the best thing we can all do is not shop there.”
So what was the point of the meeting, which took up a valuable hour of our meaningless busy lives? Well, some good did come of it. The Walnut’s husband and wife team of Aidan and Jo proposed a West Hampstead loyalty card scheme, which would encourage residents to shop at small, local businesses. Also, the whole grass roots politics malarkey filled me with a warm, fuzzy feeling of community spirit. Finally, and most importantly, it allowed me to take the following picture on the way home. I mean, Christmas is big business, but Rudolph needs a hobby for the other 364 days in the year…