curiosity about the ways of the world

Broughton awaits Tesco Express


Welcome to Broughton Street, open for business despite the tramworks. It’s the place to come whether you want a leisurely meal or a quick coffee, whether you are looking for upmarket sausages or  good wines, second hand books or frilly knickers, organic  fruit, vegetables or ( ahem) erotica.  On a wet March morning there is  a buzz in the air but a big cloud on the horizon.  Tesco Express is coming.

Despite letters of protest from local MSPs, city councillors, businesses, heritage groups and residents such as myself, the city council planning committee has approved Tesco Express Group plans for Picardy Place.

On paper the plans look harmless: a new shop front in Picardy Place and ‘plant louvres’ at the back in Broughton Street Lane. My objection (as I wrote for the excellent Broughton Spurtle) was based on evidence of what happens to an area once Tesco moves in – when local shops close a sense of community  often dies with them.


There’s plenty of good evidence for this and it is worth looking at the Tescopoly and  Tesco Town websites Across the UK, communities (not least Paisley, Portobello, Inverness and Milngavie ) are rebelling against the relentless spread of supermarkets which destroy local character and sense of community.  More than that, a New Economics Foundation study, The New Economics: A Bigger Picture,  found a connection between the presence of Wal-Mart and low voting turn-out in communities.

Even so, the planning committee could find no reason to reject Tesco’s plans because they were deemed no threat to the fabric and appearance of a listed building in the World Heritage Site (those ‘plant louvres’ being the huge metal sheets that disguise stuff like ventilation).  There is currently nothing in planning regulations that permits the committee to consider measurable damage to local businesses or less easily measured quality of life.

In fact, it did not even go to committee despite cross-party opposition. As Angela Blacklock a local Labour councillor explains:

“Every Councillor from the Central and
Leith Walk ward put out a joint statement opposing Tesco’s planning
application but our comments were not ‘material’ to the application
which was very straight forward and with Council policy and so it went
through without going to committee.”

Where does that leave local traders?  Thanks to Tesco there is now a Broughton Street Traders Association but they are resigned to the inevitable. “Tesco is off the agenda”, says Patrick Crawshaw of the Bakehouse, an active founding member along with Lucy Tanat-Jones of Organic Pleasures (which does not sell fruit and veg as my pal Celia innocently supposed).


The traders association is now concentrating on creating a website to promote every shop in the street – raising awareness of the wonderful diversity of the ‘village’ – so they can take advantage of council plans for Picardy Place developments, whatever and whenever that may be.


Open for business? Quirky independent shops and quality traders like Crombie’s are likely to survive the  numbing blandness of cut-price ‘convenience’ shopping.  But small corner shops near the top of Broughton Street are vulnerable.  I hope we can mobilise public support for a campaign to change Scottish planning regulations (click here for the Friends of the Earth campaign in England and Wales) and monitor the effects of Tesco on the local shops.

After all Tesco would not be coming here at all if small shops had not proved there is money to be made in the area.  As they say: ‘every little helps’.



  1. Administrator

    Thank you powelly for a very nice roundup to the debate – must admit I am amazed to find people still posting support for Tesco but on balance there is still an encouraging majority of people supporting the great shops in Broughton. Here’s hoping they continue to thrive!

    All the best for 2011 everyone.

  2. powelly

    This is sad news indeed. It will at least provide a convenient store for students possibly, but , as others have remarked, let’s make sure it doesn’t impact on the local independents , by continuing to use them as much as possible.
    Dear me, for those who support Tesco….are we seriously saying that you’d prefer to buy some bland defrosted fish from Tesco rather than some quality from ‘Something Fishy’? or an overpriced bottle of poor plonk rather than something from Villeneuve wines? The service at both and elsewhere being incredibly warm and friendly. Please don’t fall for the usual trick of believing you get value at Tesco. Proper value is all about proper service.
    Come on, wake up and smell the (Artisan roast) coffee.

  3. Murray

    I’ll goto Tesco because the convenience shop at the top of road doesn’t stock anything that’s very good. Same goes for the rest of convenience stores on Broughton St. Convenience at the most.

    RS McCall is an over priced paper shop.

    The fish shop and Crombies are two shops which offer the best on Broughton Street. Although I will be going to Tesco for day to day groceries, If I want fish, or meat I will definately still goto Crombies and the fish shop.

    I live here and Tesco coming to Broughton St is great in my opinion

  4. jerry

    i believe in free speach and i find all your comments interesting however everyone seems to be just jumping on a bandwagon….there are reasoned arguments but they are all one way!…..dont see any taking the other side or even one comment.therefore it all becomes a rant and does make a bit boring to read! my mate works for the council in finance (high up) according to him you would be surprised at the cheques that come in to the council from tesco sainsburys asda rbos lloyds etc etc all the big well of companys……they might not help one area in particular or ones that certain people want but there are alot of roads/schools/roundabouts/buildings etc etc in edin built by these big companys!! yes of course its to smooth a passgae for what they want!! business ius business you speculate to accumulate………!!!!

  5. jerry

    creaticevoyage……….in other words that employee broke their contract?!

    suppose they were happy to take their salary whilst they were employed.

    you sign a contract you abide by the terms…..i would suppose that a big company like tesco would not sue soemone unless they had a valid reason ie to protesct their business…. you dont say who won??/!!!

  6. jerry

    i just cant understand it all….!! the hygiene standards in these small independant shops are absolutely terrible and they are overpriced!;; look at them the next time your in any…..people vote by their feet…if these small independant shops have given good service and prices etc then people will stay with them if not they wont…the service in these small shops are poor they sell stuff OUT OF DATE and put signs up saying this.(that they are reduced! i bet that all the the surrounding shops ,that dont sell what they sell which i can only see being the newsagents, will get increased trade from the footfall that tesco attract…bet they wont complain then!!!

  7. Administrator

    Just picking up after a week away from the computer screen. I quite agree Celia, I will certainly boycott the store – I can’t think of a reason to go there. It would be good to think there is a strong community support for our local shops but it would be even better if the city council had a robust planning policy that protected local traders from unnecessary predatory competition.

  8. Celia

    This is awful!! We just have to boycott it to protect small local shops. We have to realise the uniqueness of the selection of independent shops in Broughto Street and how lucky we are to still have them

  9. Tom Allan

    Hello Fay. I’m interested in doing a podcast about this, and the prospect of other metro style supermarkets coming into other parts of the city like Stockbridge. Would you be interested in taking part in an interview?

    Best, Tom Allan.

  10. Anny

    There’s one immediate solution. Boycott Tesco. Boycott around Broughton Street, boycott everywhere…

  11. Joana Lamas

    This saddened me. I have an ’emotional’ attachment to places in old Edinburgh which have been so brilliantly portrayed through the words of Alexander McCall Smith in his Scotland Street and Sunday Philosophy Club novels.
    I refuse to believe that this project will go ahead. It won’t if Alexander McCall Smith has anything to do with it!

  12. Doogie

    This is pretty terrible news. There is a real fragility to the shopping “ecosystem” in this area, and if the general corner shops start to close it will have a knock-on effect on all others. Sad day.

  13. Despairing

    This is devastating news and completely unnecessary for that part of Edinburgh. Hopefully the newly-founded Traders Association can come up with some ideas to counteract the Tesco but, like you, I fear for the smaller shops. The ones around MacDonald Road didn’t last too long.

  14. creativevoyage

    thanks for reminding me about why I boycott tescos – they bullied and sued a relation of mine by marriage who had the temerity of actually doing her job and calling them on their price fixing

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