How to stop a supermarket opening in your area

Fleet of shopping trolleys
Battling superstore monopolies needn’t be a lone crusade. Kate Eshelby looks at some of the resources available

Lady Caroline Cranbrook carried out her own independent surveys, which showed that there was no retail need in her area for a superstore. It is essential to show whether there is a requirement for a proposed superstore – if there is not it is a proven argument to use against one being built. One of the requirements of Planning Guidance (PPS6) is that a retailing need has to be established before planning permission can be granted.

In the case of the proposed superstore outside Saxmundham, the Suffolk district council employed consultants Hillier Parker to find out whether there was a retail demand for it. This was unusual because councils usually use the supermarket’s assessment, which is obviously prone to bias. This is why independent research such as Caroline’s is invaluable, whether the local council is supporting or opposing a planning application for a superstore.

Caroline’s research supported the Suffolk district council’s work. Local authorities should properly have researched retailing policies within their local development plans – yet few do. Suffolk Coastal District Council is an exception.

Caroline went into every food shop in the area (81 shops) and carried out surveys asking the shop owners where they source their food from. By doing this she built up a database and a detailed ‘map’ showing the local food networks; illustrating how important local shops are.

‘Tesco maintained that only one or two local shops would be affected by its arrival, but out of the 81 shops I interviewed only two were indifferent. The rest said their livelihoods would be at stake,’ Caroline says.

When campaigning, however, it is important to be balanced and realistic in your argument. ‘Supermarkets are not all bad. They drive up choice and standards,’ Caroline says. ‘The problem is that they have become too powerful in relation to their suppliers and planning. We are now becoming saturated with superstores.’

Organisations that help campaign against prospective superstores…

Campaign to Protect Rural England

The Real Choice report, published by CPRE and Plunkett Foundation, can be found on the CPRE website, and is based on Caroline’s surveys. CPRE is also currently running an important nationwide project called Mapping Local Food Webs. CPRE also has a planning help section.

Environmental Law Foundation

A national UK charity that helps people to protect and improve their local environment and quality of life.

Friends of the Earth

Friends of the Earth has a supermarket campaigning section. In particular look at ‘shopping the bullies’ and ‘calling the shots'. They also run an annual event called ‘Power Up’ in Birmingham - a weekend of workshops and networking that helps empower people to make a difference where they live.

New Economics Foundation

NEF is an independent ‘think-and-do’ tank, helping local communities. It undertakes groundbreaking research, including reports Clone Town Britain and Ghost Town Britain.

Planning Aid

Planning Aid provide free, independent and professional town planning advice and support to communities and individuals.


A website that has detailed downloadable guides on how to campaign against a superstore – see the ‘campaign resources’ section. It has a further mountain of information that is not on the site, so email for more details.

Kate Eshelby is a freelance photojournalist



Taking on the big boys: tips from Tescopoly

When fighting a superstore, Tescopoly recommends taking the following steps:

ENGAGE IN THE PLANNING PROCESS You need to focus on the superstore’s application and come up with solid objections. ‘It will spoil our town’ is not enough. Planners expect local residents to shout and get emotional, which counts for nothing. Members of the planning committee can only refuse an application if it contravenes planning policies. Caroline’s response was rational common sense rather than an emotional response.

PUBLICITY STUNTS are good at raising awareness, but no more than that. On their own they will not achieve success. They should be a tool in your campaign, not the main component.

GET HOLD OF THE STORE'S APPLICATION and study it carefully. If you are a resident in the area you are entitled to a copy of the notification, which should give minimum details of what is proposed. A copy of the full application should be available for view in the planning department of your local authority and in your local library. Understanding the application is essential to your campaign.

SET UP A CAMPIAGN GROUP with other local residents. Be sure to include retailers and local businesses.

KEY ARGUMENTS There are several that can work against a superstore. Looking at the impact of a superstore on local traders and producers is one – as Caroline did. Good local knowledge is essential. And read the town centre retail assessment.

OTHER EFFECTIVE ARGUMENTS include whether the superstore is of an appropriate scale, has adequate transport links and will create noise. Is it of a proportionate size in relation to retailing needs of the area? The size of the superstore will be based on the estimated number of weekly shopping visits. How does this number compare with the population of the local town?

ANALYZE the estimated traffic counts in the superstore’s application. Crosschecking is crucial because superstores usually underestimate their figures. Independent car counts frequently show the proposed traffic numbers (and numbers of delivery lorries) to be higher. Measure roads to see if there is room for the proposed traffic changes. Traffic congestion is another valuable argument against a superstore.

AIR QUALITY Another factor to consider is whether the proposed superstore will affect the surrounding air quality. Speak to your local air-quality officer or environmental protection officer.

STATUS CHECK Is the intended superstore in a historic, green-belt or conservation area?

PLANNING DOCUMENTS A superstore application must fit with the planning documents, which local authorities have to create to guide the future shape of planning in the area. Does the proposed superstore in your area do this? Remember national Government policy is to promote the vitality of towns and protect them from out-of-town development. And community rights are one of the strongest arguments; they have the right to decide the future shape of their environment. No change from the specified site description can be made without first consulting the community.

WRITE A TEMPLATE LETTER once you have decided on reasons against a superstore. Get other individuals in the town to sign it, including local retailers. Use your regional paper to highlight your case and deliver leaflets to residents explaining why a superstore in your area is not feasible.

SUPPORT Engage with your local MP, county councillor and district councillor.

CONTACT your local Federation of Small Businesses and Association of Convenience Stores. Both these organisations may be able to give you helpful advice.

For more advice, Tescopoly