Stokes Croft locals don’t want a new store but the council is being supine, says Joanna Blythman

Is it possible to say "Thanks, but no thanks" to Tesco? Barbara Janke, the leader of Bristol City Council, and Stephen Williams, MP for Bristol West, have written to Sir Terry Leahy asking the chain to drop its plans for a new store in the Stokes Croft area of the city.

The message to Tesco from the people of Bristol is loud and clear: we don't want you in Stokes Croft. Surveys show 96% of locals don't want another supermarket.

They have alternative plans for transforming this currently deprived area into a distinctive destination, based on a community-owned alternative, and another cloned Tesco selling cheap booze doesn't fit with that.

The anti-Tesco Stokes Croft Facebook page counts more than 3,000 supporters, yet still Tesco has the cheek to go on national radio claiming that it has received "an overwhelmingly positive response from the local community". Come off it.

Typical of the behind-the-scenes way supermarkets go about getting planning permission, this proposed store has been sprung on locals with very close to full planning permission yet without any meaningful public consultation or impact assessment. The local community only found out in February that Tesco was behind the application, although crucial change-of-use permission was granted back in November.

In common with councils up and down the land, which don't have deep enough pockets to take on the legal might of our big grocery chains, Bristol Council has been too fearful of Tesco suing it to deny planning permission.

So like an over-zealous, unwelcome suitor, the chain persists in pressing its unwanted attentions. Now all that Bristol Council can do is ask Tesco to pull out, so honouring all its fine words about "listening to the community" and responding to "suggestions and concerns people might have".

That Bristol Council has had to resort to a begging letter appealing to Tesco's better instincts does it have any? underlines yet again a glaring failure in our planning system. We urgently need regulation to redress the current power imbalance between our spoiled supermarkets, which have got their way for far too long, and local people fighting to retain and enhance the particular character of their area.

If Tesco seriously expects anyone to believe it only goes where it is welcome, then it should ditch its plans for Stokes Croft forthwith.

Joanna Blythman is a food journalist and author of Bad Food Britain.