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Backlash over campaign to stop Co-Op opening village supermarket

We're not too posh for a Co-Op, insist campaigners

30 August, 2018 — By Tom Foot

Linda Grove is among the objectors

THE campaign to stop the Co-op moving into Belsize Village has suffered a backlash from residents who say protesters are acting like “stick-in-the- muds”.

The New Journal reported last week how the supermarket chain was planning to move into boarded-up XO restaurant in Belsize Lane. Opponents say the arrival of the store will spoil the village character, bring delivery truck traffic to narrow streets and threaten long-established independent businesses.

But after our report, a counter-view emerged, with some people welcoming a store with cheaper prices and claiming that “snobbery” was driving some fears. Splits in opinion among Conservative Party members were revealed, with ward councillors joining an anti-Co-op demonstration, but others claiming free-market economics should give customers more choice. Brian Coleman, former London Assembly member, waded into the row, accusing local Conservatives of being Nimbys.

Linda Grove, who has been involved in successful campaigns to prevent Tesco and Sainsbury’s opening in Haverstock Hill in recent years, said: “I was really hoping this would be a cross-party campaign, with people joining together to do something for the community. But it’s turning into a political thing. Now, people are saying: ‘They are doing it because they are too posh for the Co-op.’ They’ve used that to describe people in Hampstead for years.”

She added: “People don’t understand that there are normal people living in this area, and we do get together to protect the environment for the next generation.”

The new Liberal Democrat councillors in the ward, Luisa Porritt and Tom Simon, said they had been assured by the Co-op there would be one delivery a day – a small one, they said – and not during school-run hours. There would only be a “limited selection of fruit and veg”, the councillors said.

Dawn Zimbler, who lives nearby and is among critics of the campaign, said: “I can tell you that as a social tenant in this area – and there are quite a few of us – a Co-op in the village would be an asset. “The Co-op will cause no more disruption than any other business. We can’t let the stick-in-the-muds win again. We have a Tesco in England’s Lane, which causes no problems at all, but the Belsize purity saviours didn’t want that there either.”

A Co-op statement said: “We believe that a new Co-op store in Belsize Lane would enhance shopping options for local people, providing a wide selection of fresh, healthy foods as well as creating full- and part-time jobs which would be targeted at people living in the immediate vicinity.”

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