By Lewis Goodall
Hell hath no fury like a community with a new proposed supermarket on its doorstep.
At a ‘People’s Question Time Event’ organised by Chuka Umunna MP, the audience (over eighty strong) at St Matthews Tenants Hall expressed deep reservations around the supermarket’s plans to take over the CarpetRight premises on 2 Tulse Hill.
Many attendees wanted to know why the Sainsbury’s representatives present felt the company needed yet greater presence in the borough. One lady, representing local traders, asked ‘How many Sainsbury’s do we need? How many Sainsbury’s have we got? We need decent shops in Brixton- where will we get carpet?’
“Where will we buy our Carpets?”
Though few could offer advice on alternative carpet retailers, it transpired that in taking over the 10,000sq ft retail unit, Sainsburys will add a 19th store to its Lambeth empire, including two Sainsburys locals both a mere half a mile from the planned development.
Tulse Hill councillors on the panel, Ruth Ling and Marcia Cameron, made clear that the council had few powers at its disposal to oppose the development as the building was not changing from retail use.
The company’s representatives argued that the new, much larger store would create new jobs and a much greater range of produce at lower prices.
For many people, these benefits weren’t enough. Local traders, many of whom could not attend for working throughout the evening- felt the new superstore would destroy their family businesses.
Others expressed concerns as to how any increase in traffic alongside already busy roads like Brixton Water Lane would affect local people and the nearby Jubilee Primary school. Ready access to more cheap alcohol, in an area with plenty already available also was a major concern.
Sainsbury’s countered that previous experience would indicate that local firms would benefit as a result of increased footfall and that they would create new jobs in the area. They did not, however, commit to paying the London Living Wage.
Not all attendees were against. Some residents welcomed the increased choice that the new Sainsbury’s would bring, arguing that it would help working people carry out their weekly shop.
Majority opinion in the room, however, was largely hostile, with Chuka Umunna expressing concern that the country was ‘sleepwalking into a monoculture on our high streets.’
Monday 18th February is the deadline for those who wish to submit representations to Lambeth Council. The planned opening is in July.