I was drafting a blog about the Stokes Croft Tesco riot when I saw Zoe Williams’ piece in the Guardian about it – which basically makes the main point that it’s surprising it doesn’t happen more often given the powerlessness of communities to decide what happens to their own high street.
As someone whose local centre is threatened by a now-approved out of centre Tesco (Moseley) I very much experience this feeling of powerlessness. But two additions to Zoe’s points: firstly she doesn’t mention the proposed planning system under the localism bill, which makes saying no to damaging development even more difficult than it already is.
Secondly – while she mentions communities making the points about individual businesses, which are not planning grounds, in the Moseley case and in many others there were very sound, evidence-backed points made by the community which were ignored and unanswered by the planners, relating to the planning issues of vitality and viability of the centre. Communities often have objective, evidence-based arguments to contribute, not just ‘liking Mr and Mrs Loshanan and the way they run their shop’ to reference Zoe’s example. But planners and local authorities seem to see themselves (already, let alone under the government’s planning reforms) as entirely beholden to corporate development. Same with Beorma’s might against BVSC and our lovely local Polish shop on Allison Street.
On a personal level, I found myself feeling glad – angry but glad – that rioting against Tesco had happened at Stokes Croft. Being glad about violence – even if only against property – is not in my usual psyche, and makes me realise that we (community members) need to try to take the Moseley Tesco decision to judicial review because we need to have tried everything – or we could end up feeling angry and disenfranchised enough to be violent.
Officers of elected government cannot take community evidence into account because corporates have been given all the cards? Surely, we no longer live in a democracy.