TESCOPOLY: HOW THE STORE GROUP RIPPED THE HEART OUT OF A THRIVING COMMUNITY

AND HOW HUGO SWIRE SCORED A SPECTACULAR OWN-GOAL

Huge numbers of Seaton residents wanted to keep Tesco out of their town. Now Tesco’s ‘Keep Out’ sign is all that remains of the Community Centre.

Memo to all Culture and Health Ministers: if you want people to stay fit – and you’d like to mend Britain’s society from community level upwards – stop giving in to Tesco.

Last year, Britain’s biggest store group demolished a holiday and community centre – in the seaside town of Seaton in Devon – in order to build itself a thumping great delivery depot…so people won’t have to go to their shops and meet other people – even when their shops are the only ones left in business.

There are plenty of smelly bits surrounding this crass piece of ‘social engineering’. For a start, Seaton is a throbbing metropolis of just…6000 souls. So why did it need a hypermarket? But for seconds, oddest of all was how the permission for a hypermarket gradually morphed into becoming a mega-depot.

As from next year, whopping great lorries will career out of both ends of Seaton – which doesn’t have a dual carriageway to its name. The land set aside for the development is on a flood plain – a practice allegedly banned by the Environment Agency four years ago. It’s also near to rare breeding sites for coastal-river birds. And according to the land’s deeds, the sale of alcoholic goods is forbidden thereupon.

But nothing stopped Seaton Council who – to a large extent under the cosh of Devon County Council – drove the application through in the teeth of severe opposition.

However, the mildest opposition of all came from Tory minister Hugo Swire, who never so much as emitted a peep about the destruction of a local retail culture and a sports centre.

If the Tories win in May, Hugo Swire will be…Minister of Culture, Media & Sport.