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The Story of a little Dorset town v. Tesco PLC

On 13th December 2012, the news that Tesco plans opening a new store in Sherborne on the site of The Sherborne Hotel stirred a mini army of supporters into action, with a social media campaign, petition and website all launched within 48 hours. The campaign attracted the attention of high street champion MARY PORTAS  who offered us her full support.

We cannot overestimate the impact Tesco (or any other supermarket) would have on our independent shops, markets and other high street stores and services.  In other words, to the very fabric of the town centre and our way of life.

The key issues are:

  • Geographical importance : Sherborne is a gateway town – the proposed Tesco site is at the entrance to an historic market town, and indeed Dorset, and ANY development there needs careful consideration. Tesco was granted a (non-publicised) restrictive clause on the land registry deeds of this site on 15th August 2012; its aim being to prevent other more suitable developments access to the site.
  • Tourism: To accommodate Tesco the town will lose a hotel and yet Tesco claims it will increase tourism by opening there – the argument just doesn’t stack up. We are a town with an Abbey built in the C15th; we have castles and listed buildings galore. We have an enviable arts culture. We attract tourists because of the way we look, what we offer, the experience we create and the welcome we give – not because of our supermarkets. We still need a hotel on that site.
  • Economy: Sherborne’s economy depends on a thriving high street, with its supporting outlying retailers and service providers.  The complex trading model of Tesco would engulf every retail and service offering in town and be a threat to many businesses on which the character and economy of the town is built.
  • Community: We LOVE our town. The town centre is the hub of community activity. We stage great events and festivals. We have a market town reputation going back for hundreds of years, with fabulous independent shops and markets promoting the pleasure of ‘real’ shopping that also supports our local farmers and small producers.  We do not believe superstores are the place to build communities.

This is not a debate about people’s shopping preferences – the arguments are much more complex than that. The town is not averse to change or moving with the times either – we have already accommodated many high street brands into our town centre but it is now time to take a stand on further retail over-development.   There are ‘front line’ shops and services under immediate threat, mostly independents. After that other shops not immediately thought of as ‘competitors’ to Tesco would be under pressure due to reduced footfall and the town becoming a less attractive place to work, shop, visit and live.

Unfortunately Tesco has a habit of prolonging planning projects until people give up the will to fight.  It has done that in neighbouring Yeovil for years and only on 13th December 2012 announced a pending fourth Tesco-branded store in the town – which is currently under local opposition.

One of the factors in seeking planning permission for building at Barton Farm in Sherborne was that it would bring extra business into the town centre – it would be ironic if Tesco takes all that new business and more from the town.

Other than a thriving high street, Sherborne already has two major supermarkets and numerous smaller ones which can more than cope with our population of around 10,000.  Those who want to shop in larger chain stores and supermarkets, and we respect that, need only pop into Yeovil for much more choice whenever they want.  Alternatively Tesco, Waitrose and Sainsburys already offer an excellent delivery service to Sherborne.

This website and linked social media activity is set up and managed by a group of volunteers who live and work in Sherborne and who care about the economic sustainability of the town and the quality of life of its community – please contact us at hello@nothankstesco.co.uk if you believe you can help in any way.

On 5 September 2013 our landmark campaign was SUCCESSFUL!

Join us on twitter ~ Spread the word ~ and always remember… Every Little Helps!

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