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As all that is solid melts to air and everything holy is profaned...

Saturday, March 26, 2005

Taking on Tesco

All gone busy. For the past year been 'spearheading' a campaign to stop Tesco building a superstore on the edge of town. The consensus was nothing could be done to stop it, especially since it seemed to have the support of key figures in local council.

What was also annoying was that the Food Town committee ( see www.cd-foodtown.org ) had been advised that there was nothing they could do. So they have sat on the fence for the past year. I even managed to get thrown out of their AGM by tying to raise the Tesco question...

All came to a head on Friday 11th march. There was a planning meeting which lasted from 9.30 am to 6 pm. The local area committee agreed to give planning permission, but the full regional committee deferred their decision until April 8th.

It was all glorious chaos, with Tesco's suited-up team negotiating away a petrol-filling station at the last moment, police being called, accusations and threats to sue flying around. My daughter came along just to watch the fun - a bit of town hall theatre. Almost as much fun as meetings of Hackney Council were in the late eighties. I remember one occasion (to do with the eviction of Stamford Hill estate) when protestors occupied the Council Chambers, whilst councillors tried to break the door down using a table as a battering ram...

Quite why there is such institutional enthusiasm for Tesco puzzled me- until I did a bit of investigative research. "It is about sewage not shopping" was the soundbite I came up with for a local radio station.

It turns out that the outfall from Castle Douglas sewage works runs into a drainage ditch behind the town's football pitch. It then winds its way through a bog until it reaches a river 1 1/2 miles away. Scottish Water can't upgrade until 2010 at earliest, but it is worth big private developers stumping up the cash to get the work done. A health centre and housing development are already under construction on this basis.

There is a snag though. The bog is a Site of Special Scientific Interest. This means the original plan to build a pipeline through it from the sewage works direct to the river is being blocked by Scottish Natural Heritage. The alternative route is twice as far and will be much more expensive to build.

I reckon that without Tesco's little bit of help, the whole project will stall. But if the project stalls, the new health centre and 63 luxury houses will have to remain empty... much egg on face all round plus buck-passing and lawyers arguing over who should pay - Scottish Water or private developers?

Hence the sudden and desperate need to get the Tesco plan agreed. It could even be the Council have left theselves open to a judicial review by trying to cut procedural corners.

So I am busy. Will get back onto the punk track soon though.



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