Tesco’s UK boss Chris Bush today pledged the retailer would “work with anyone” to try to breathe new life into the high street, as he stressed it was willing to drop plans for stores if local consultations showed residents did not want them.
Writing in a blog post, the UK managing director revealed that Tesco had decided not to pursue controversial plans to redevelop a hotel site in the centre of Sherborne, Dorset, into a store.
“We’ve held meetings in the town, talked to supporters and opponents, discussed with the Council and this week we have concluded it won’t work,” he said.
“Protestors will celebrate, but in the end it was planning, not the protest, which drove this conclusion. Road access to the store site proved too difficult and expensive to resolve, the plan was not workable, so we did not submit an application.
“While the Sherborne protest was not the deciding factor, we did listen to it. When we say we consult communities, we mean it. We do it because successful stores serve their communities well and to do that, we need to understand the community well.”
On the issue of the high street, Bush added: “What we need is a thorough analysis of the challenges facing town centres. Finding solutions to these challenges isn’t easy, and it’s inevitable that not everyone will take the same view. We stand ready to work with anyone - whatever their perspective - who shares our commitment to the high street.”
The future of the UK high street has been in the news recently, with ex-Iceland boss Bill Grimsey presenting his independent review this week, including the suggestion that big chains pay a one-off levy to help town centres.
On Monday, Mary Portas defended her high-street review to a committee of MPs, saying she had not been given enough support by the government.