MWT Picket Members (1991) Sainsbury Boycott. Magpie 19, p.11-13.
It was a cold and frosty morning, on the 15th of December, when we took to the streets to picket Sainsbury’s Stockport store as the second phase in our boycott campaign. Present were Jonathan Proctor, Anthony Phelps, Ian Brown and John Turner (and his dog Gwilym, who didn’t realise he.was being used as an advert.) The object of the exercise; to bring to the attention of the public Sainsbury’s intention of building a huge superstore which would destroy Bruntwood Hay Meadow, and to encourage people to show their disapproval by boycotting Sainsburys stores. We displayed placards, which briefly explained the situation, and a board showing a map of Bruntwood Meadow with photographs of the meadow in summer, when it looked superb. We also distributed 2,000, hard-hitting leaflets, which pithily outlined the environmental damage which is to take place. Very few people were aware of the situation, but most were appalled when they realised the full implications of Sainsbury’s proposals. Some were persuaded to shop elsewhere.
When articles have appeared in the local papers encouraging people to boycott Sainsburys because of the threat to the hay meadow, why is it that [almost] nobody knew anything about it? Do they live in caves? It would seem to me that unless people are directly affected by an adverse proposal, they suffer from what I will call the “ostrich syndrome”, better known as complacency, and that you have to take to the streets to get your message across [We did and we did! – Ed.). Is this “everybody’s turning green” just something that the media has latched onto because it is newsworthy? I still feel despondent about the future when profits have priority over protecting the environment on which we all ultimately depend for our survival.
We conducted an orderly picket, meeting the store manager early on when he asked that we moved away from the entrance, to avoid obstructing customers, which was fair enough. After that we were kept under “surveillance”. It would seem that Sainsburys pay their managers to walk trolleys to the Parking area, and look out of the window! We distributed our leaflets, of which very few were discarded, and explained the impending loss of the hay meadow to people, with the aid of our displays. We had a photo session at the end of the day (just before we froze solid!) and, after checking the area for our litter, Ian, Jon and myself went into the store (not to buy!) to give the manager some information, including a copy of “Magpie”, the leaflet and our press release about the Proposed development, which he received without comment. He had, during an unwitnessed telephone call, to Ian Brown on the previous day stated that Sainsburys no longer had any interest in the site. This was probably to make us think that our demonstration was a waste of time! It wasn’t!
Ian “controversy” Brown –
What was it all about then! I think the article from the Advertiser deals adequately with the envi-ronmental implications as regards the Hay Meadow itself , (The meadow is a Grade B Site of Biological Importance.) But what about the wider environment? There is nothing environmentally friendly about an out of town superstore especially if it is on a greenfield site. The main worry is that this proposed Sainsbury store is specifically intended to attract the “car borne shopper” from a 30 mile radius and this will obviously bring about a considerable increase in private car use. More CO2 released into the air, more “greenhouse gas” to accelerate global warming. Could this be the increase in the increase which could create conditions Intolerable to life on earth? (Hot Offices) The straw to break the camel’s back? Will Sainsburys be responsible? We should be seeking ways to reduce car use, not increase it. Oil is a finite resource which will one day run out, and if legislation is not implemented within the next 20 years, which will bring about a decrease in oil use, then dwindling supplies will lead to shortage and escalating prices.
Legislation could cut down oil use and decrease CO2 pollution of the atmosphere. At the Institute of Geographers’ annual con-ference, Dr. John Whitelegg, of the University of Lancaster, called for ecological tax reforms, reducing tax on paid employ-ment while increasing it on items which use non-renewable resources like petrol and diesel, helping public transport and railways and steering the economy towards sustainable growth. It would mean a five fold rise in fuel tax. He said, “Not only should private transport pay the full cost it imposes on society, it should contribute to the funding of alternatives which have the effect of reducing accidents, acid rain, the Probability of global warming and of improving the immediate environment in all our cities.” He also added that roads and car parking space should be taxed to reflect the environmental damage they cause. So it’s not just me talking! If these tax reforms take place, and they should, the public is not going to thank Sainsburys (and others) for encouraging them to become long distance “car-borne shoppers” who find they suddenly can’t afford the fuel. Sainsburys won’t be thanking themselves when they find they have unusable and unsaleable assets too far from where people live. More acceptable, socially and environmentally, and more sensible from a business point of view, would be to have small shops within the community so that people could walk there.
Like John Turner, I am a little pessimistic and fear that not enough people care, to change the situation, and that it will all end in tears. So all you people out there, make my day; prove me wrong; show Sainsburys that you do care and you won’t let them destroy OUR environment. (Contact Lord Sainsbury of Preston Candover c/o Stamford House, Stamford Street, London. SE1 9L,L) How can we preach to poor peasants in Brazil, telling them not to cut down the rainforest. They only want to make a meagre living; we destroy our environment for obscene profit!
Gwilym ( the dog) – Woof ! And thanks for the biscuits!
We have met Jonathan Porritt, who has recently been taken on by Sainsburys as a policy advisor, and informed him of the situation. We await developments.
A Trust Member, Diana Downing, has written to Sainsburys, complaining about their plans. In reply, they say, amongst other things, that, “if areas of the site were of special ecological importance, we would do everything we could to preserve and enhance these.” There is only one way – not to build!