By Chuka Umunna MP
Last Friday I held another one of my regular People’s Question Time events, this time on Tesco’s plan to open a Tesco Express store on the site of the old George IV Pub, more recently called Music Bar.
I chaired a panel consisting of one of the Brixton Hill ward Councillors, Florence Nosegbe; Andrew Child who is one of the organisers of the Save George IV campaign; and Matt Magee, Tesco’s Corporate Affairs Manager. Around 100 people who live and work in the local area took the time to come along and express their views, and a wide range of relevant points were made – the strength of feeling about this issue was clear from the start.
Cllr Nosegbe informed the meeting that Tesco’s planning application for a car park and the removal of existing fencing had been rejected by the Council; however, Tesco do not need to apply for a change of use to open a store at the site. Representatives from the Brixton Society and the Save George IV campaign raised questions about the Council’s policy on the loss of pubs.
I know some people are opposed to supermarkets altogether, but I am not one of those people: I think they can be a valuable community resource, especially when they are committed to providing local jobs. I know many people make good use of the supermarkets we already have, and Tesco in particular have made a significant contribution to our area through the Streatham Hub.
However, my conclusion after hearing from everyone attending the meeting, and from those who have written to me on this issue, was that there is little support or need for another chain express supermarket in the locality. I will be writing to the Tesco Chief Executive to make clear the strong views expressed at the meeting and I will publish any response received on my website, www.chuka.org.uk.
Chuka Umunna is shadow business secretary and MP for Streatham. His constituency also covers south Brixton.