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‘Save our village’ pleas over Co-Op’s supermarket plan for Belsize Park

Independent traders say their businesses will be threatened by chain's arrival at boarded-up XO restaurant

23 August, 2018 — By Tom Foot

Opponents to the new store stage a protest on Tuesday

INDEPENDENT traders and residents have warned that plans to open a Co-op supermarket in Belsize Park must be fought.

“Not in our village” campaigners argue that a store in Belsize Lane – at the site of the former XO restaurant – will bring delivery lorries into their narrow neighbourhood streets and theaten established small businesses.

It would be the first major chain in the Belsize “village” area, which is currently home to a historic greengrocers, a late-night convenience store and a bakery. The businesses say they could not compete financially.

A protest outside the proposed Co-op site, which took place on Tuesday, included veterans of successful campaigns that helped stop Tesco and Sainsbury’s from opening outlets in Belsize Park in recent years.

Alon Kubi, from Roni’s Bakery in Belsize Lane, said: “The main issue is that it is a supermarket that will sell almost everything that the village shops already have to offer… but none of the traders in the village can compete.”

He added that it was important to do the best for the village community and customers and to “maintain this great villagey atmosphere for many decades to come”.

Late Late Shop manager Mohammed Shafiq, who has been in Belsize Lane for 20 years, said: “We are talking about a very large company. They can buy in bulk and we will not be able to compete.”

David Farley from Crescent Fruiterers, which has traded in the street for 80 years, said: “We just don’t know what’s going to happen.”

The Co-op – the country’s fifth-largest retailer widely celebrated for its ethical Fairtrade stock – has acquired the lease to the former XO Asian fusion restaurant that shut last year. The restaurant replaced the Belsize Tavern pub in 2007.

The Co-op proudly states that it has outlets in every single postcode of the country.

Conservative councillors Maria Higson and Steve Adams, and party leader Oliver Cooper, who all attended the protest, say the restaurant and shop can turn into a Co-op branch under “permitted development” rights and that there is no way of opposing the switch through official council channels.

Residents living nearby spoke about their fears of foxes dragging litter around the streets at night and lorries getting jammed in the narrow roads that lead to Belsize Park and Swiss Cottage.

Artist Laura Pollak, who lives in Belsize, said: “It will ruin the small, family businesses which we treasure and appreciate, it will increase traffic congestion and add danger to all kids playing in the square and, last but not least, it will destroy the village atmosphere which everyone living here appreciates. “We do not want a Co-op opening here.”

The Co-op could not say when the store might open but said in a statement: “We believe that a new Co-op store on Belsize Lane would enhance shopping options for local people, providing a wide selection of fresh, healthy foods and meal ideas as well as creating a number of full and part-time jobs which would be targeted at people living in the immediate vicinity.”

It added: “The Co-op is a proud community retailer and would also provide members and customers with the opportunity to raise funds for local groups and organisations through its highly regarded Membership Scheme.”

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