Fenland district council said Tesco had agreed to set up a community fund that will give grants to local charities, community groups and clubs in Chatteris, where the retailer built a 47,000 sq ft store, which it no longer wants, and Whittlesey, where it has scrapped plans for the development of a 36,000 sq ft store.
A Tesco spokesman said the money provided to Fenland council was not compensation and had been provided as part of its normal community funding scheme. He said: “We’re always looking at new ways we can help local charities and community groups, whether it’s food banks or local hospices, and we’re proud to support a range of great local causes in every part of the country. ”
The payment is one of the first of several expected to emerge as towns around the country negotiate with Tesco over the future of 49 abandoned development sites and 43 stores which are to close.
In Bridgwater, Somerset, two local councils are in talks with Tesco over an £11m deal to buy a piece of land where plans for a new store have been abandoned, while in Banff, Aberdeenshire, negotiations continue over a £10m land deal.
Meanwhile, people in Kirkby, near Liverpool, are not impressed by an iron sculpture of a dead tree which forms the centrepiece of the supermarket’s promise to complete improvement works in their town centre after walking away from plans for a new store. The tree, which is part of a £320,000 spruce up of the town centre paid for by Tesco and the local Knowsley council, is thought to have cost up to £60,000.
Locals commenting on the Knowsley Market Facebook page dismissed it as an “eyesore” and a “total waste of money”. Guardian art critic Jonathan Jones named the piece by Geoff Wood among the UK’s six worst pieces of public art, saying it “says nothing meaningful to or about Kirkby and its citizens”.
Dave Kelly, chairman of pressure group 1st 4 Kirkby, said it was “bizarre” that the council and Tesco were spending money on artworks when there were more pressing matters at hand.
He called on Tesco to help fund a feasibility study into saving 72 empty homes linked to its development site which are currently scheduled for demolition despite plans for the new supermarket being axed. “The tree is the wrong thing in the wrong place at the wrong time. If Tesco is looking to leave a legacy because it has abandoned the town, it would be far more appropriate to look into saving those homes,” Kelly said.
Tesco announced the dramatic plans to axe stores and developments as part of a bid by its new chief executive, Dave Lewis, to revive the fortunes of Britain’s biggest supermarket which is suffering from falls in sales and profits. As many as 9,000 jobs are expected to go as part of a plan to slash £250m of running costs while Tesco is also ditching its defined benefit pension scheme.
All the major supermarkets are trying to trim their operating costs as they try and support profits while cutting prices for shoppers. The rise of discounters Aldi and Lidl as well as an economic climate which has put pressure on most people’s spending power is driving a price war which is also being fuelled by deflation in food commodity prices.
This article was written by Sarah Butler, for theguardian.com on Monday 16th February 2015 19.32 Europe/Londonguardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010