The success of our business depends on listening to people and responding to what they tell us. [Tesco Corporate Social Responsibility]
Here’s a shocking revelation in our local community newsletter. Shocking but probably not surprising. Tesco will not be paying a penny towards the construction of Edinburgh’s tram route although it is perfectly – and surely deliberately – placed to gain custom from three tram stops on Leith Walk. But that’s not the shocking bit.
According to the latest issue of the Spurtle, Tesco – unlike other developments on the tram route – is exempt from making contributions to construction costs. Planning regulations require only new developments to make a payment and technically the new Tesco Express coming soon to Picardy Place at the top of Leith Walk is not a new development, merely an internal refurbishment of an existing store.
No, that’s not the shocking bit. Nor is the fact that a planning department source told Spurtle there was absolutely no way round the technicality. The truly gobsmacking bit is what the planning official said next:
It would be unreasonable even to request some payment
on a voluntary basis.
Why? What is remotely unreasonable about asking for a donation towards the cost of a transport system which (assuming the line actually runs that far) will deliver customers right to the store doorway. Now Tesco has bought the old Scotmid in Duke Street that means Scotland’s largest private sector employer has three stores carefully positioned by tram stops along Leith Walk (one at the foot, one at the top and one half way up opposite McDonald Road). (See Spurtle and city planning rules for more)
In the week that the earth moved in Westminster it is always sobering to remember who really holds the power. Tescotowns could well be the future for many parts of the UK as the Guardian reported recently – whole communities of shops, homes, schools and public places owned by a company with the vision, confidence, clout and cash that local authorities are sadly lacking.
And there are no planning regulations to stop them – and no political will to change the planning regulations to protect the interests of small, independent retailers.
But maybe there is another way. (Of course I think we should limit the number of Tesco stores in town but neighbourhoods should at least get some cashback benefit for every new store in their area.) Let’s take Tesco’s word that they care about communities and the environment. Their very nicely produced Corporate Social Responsibility report lists at length the investments they make in good causes as well as what they are doing to reduce their carbon footprint. Green transport is one of their priorities and they are changing to rail wherever they can – especially in Scotland.
So maybe they would be only too happy to invest in a tram system which could eventually connect communities across the city centre (as well as bringing customers to their store) – and reduce Edinburgh’s carbon footprint and congestion at the same time. Tesco says their success depends on listening. But first we have to ask. If only the council wasn’t so shy.