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The Upper Red Lion at Herne, Tesco, and Peter Vickery-Jones

What do the locals make of the tale of an old village pub, a greedy supermarket and a local Councillor? Disgusting, stupid, ignorant… and they’re not talking about the pub or the supermarket.

Here’s how the tale has been unfolding over the last couple of weeks in the HB Gazette. The pub closed in March 2011, and is up for sale at £¼m. Tesco will take it off Punch Tavern’s hands if they can get planning permission, although both sides are being tight-lipped about the deal. Ignoring the concerns of local businesses, Cllr Vickery-Jones wades in, spouting daftness.

It’s worth noting at this point that Tesco are perfectly happy to throw their considerable weight around to get what they want. Canterbury City Council opposed their planning applications for an Express store in Herne Bay (for a number of good reasons) but Tesco just kept bludgeoning away, running up costs, and escalating it to the Secretary of State until CCC just gave up. As a result, we now have an accident black spot on the main road into Herne Bay, as shoppers swerve in to park on the pavement outside Tesco, and then lurch backwards into the flow of traffic to go home. Thanks, guys.

HBG Sept 22nd: Supermarket giant Tesco is believed to have expressed an interest in buying the empty Upper Red Lion pub.

It is understood the national chain wants to turn the pub into an Express store if negotiations and a planning application are successful. City council town co-ordinator Chris West was among those told about a possible deal this week. He said:

“Apparently they’re looking to buy the building and turn it into a new Express store. I don’t know how true it is, but the person who told me is a pretty reliable source. They deal in property and said they’d caught wind of it. Obviously if it were true there would be concerns from local businesses, but Tesco would need to get planning permission anyway. It certainly sounds like it’s something within their remit.”

The pub closed in March and was put up for sale by owner Punch Taverns for offers of more than £250,000. It was listed as being suitable for “alternative uses”. But Punch Taverns spokesman Leila Maia wouldn’t be drawn on who it was in talks with. She said:

“It is always our preference that our pubs continue to trade as pubs. However, we do review our estate regularly and may explore other options around the future of our less sustainable sites, or where they might better fulfil their potential for the local community under different ownership. We are looking at different options around the future of the Upper Red Lion, including marketing the pub for sale, and are talking to interested parties.”

Tesco spokesman Carol Leslie was just as cagey, saying:

“We are always on the look out for possible new sites all over the country and are often in negotiations for suitable schemes for Express stores. However, these often never materialise. Until an agreement is reached we would not comment on individual cases.”

Herne councillor Peter Vickery-Jones had also heard Tesco was interested, but says it could face parking problems. He said:

“It’s an extraordinary move. I can’t really believe they’d buy a plot of that nature, but who knows. Maybe they can buy the School Lane car park from the council and we can all enjoy some free parking. From the perspective of what a shop there would offer, it has to be good for the area. There isn’t anywhere around there like it.

The pages fly off the wall calendar, and all of a sudden, it’s a week later. Rather than only hearing from the supermarket, the landlord and the councillor, we now get to hear from some of the people who matter – the local residents…

HBG Sept 29th Letters

I read with amazement the rumours regarding the development of the Red Lion Pub in Herne (‘Checking out rumours of pub becoming store’, Herne Bay Gazette, September 22). My incredulity wasn’t so much with the notion that Tesco would consider developing a pub in a beautiful village and totally destroying the area, but with the complete ignorance and stupidity of Herne councillor Peter Vickery-Jones. I quote: “From the perspective of what a shop there would offer, it has to be good for the area. There isn’t anywhere around there like it.”

Has he ever visited Herne? Does he have eyes? Has he not seen the shop that is right next to the site and serves the community so very well? Has he ever visited Herne Bay and seen the Tesco Express there? And has he ever considered why there isn’t anywhere around there like it? Maybe because it is a beautiful village with character, not another Tesco town! I think he should consider resigning from his position as I’m not sure how he can represent Heme when he has obviously demonstrated his ignorance of the village!

Steve Owen, Aspen Road, Herne Common, Herne

I am a local shop owner who is worried and disgusted by plans for another Tesco Express store. There is already a Tesco Express store less than two miles away in Herne Bay. That was opened in the middle of two shops which are now suffering as a result. I am also confused about Punch Tavern’s decision to consider selling the site to a supermarket. Pubs are always complaining about supermarkets selling alcohol at a loss and this leading to pubs to close down, which is a bit ironic.

I am also disgusted that a local Councillor is in favour of a Tesco Express, does he not realise what effect it would have on the area and local business, especially the shop next door and the pub opposite? He may be a councillor but he’s out of touch with his local community. If the shop and post office next door is forced to close down, this would have a big impact on the elderly people who use them locally. It is not what the local businesses who have been serviced the local community there for many years deserve.

I think before Tesco is granted permission to open up another store, however, there should be a proper investigation on how it will affect the area. I think it has more disadvantages than advantages. They should also look at other similar projects and see what effects it had on those areas. I have tried to put my anger and worries into these few words but can’t express my feelings enough.

Sedat Duymus, Hawe Farm Way, Broomfield, Herne Bay

Mr Kumanan, the local newsagent, clearly has a much better grasp of the implications of Tesco’s plans than his local councillor does. Maybe they should swap jobs.

HBG Sept 29th: A village newsagent says his 80-year-old shop will be forced to close if Tesco moves in next door.

Thiruvalluvar Kumanan was speaking after the Gazette revealed last week that the supermarket giant is in talks to take over the empty Red Lion Pub in Herne. The dad-of-two has run Herne Village Stores next door for the last four years, but the shop has been there for at least 80. He said:

“We won’t stand a chance, but what can we do? We can’t compete with someone as big as Tesco. They just do whatever they want, whenever they want and wherever they want. It’s just not fair.”

Mr Kumanan’s wife Priya called Punch Taverns, owners of the Upper Red Lion, two weeks ago and says she was told they were negotiating with Tesco. The pub has been empty since March and has been up for sale for offers of more than £250,000. Mr Kumanan said:

“If it happens it will be the end of us. You’ve only got to look at what effect they’ve had on smaller businesses elsewhere. They just muscle in and take all the trade. It makes me so angry.

I’ve got two children and a family to support and this will really affect our livelihood. It will even affect people in the area because they will have massive delivery lorries coming everyday and will be open until 10pm or 11pm every night. We close at 7.30pm. It wouldn’t surprise me if they actually changed the road layout for Tesco as well – they seem to do everything else. I’d love to fight it, but I know whatever we say or do won’t count.”

Tesco has so far refused to confirm if it is interested in the site, with spokesman Carol Leslie saying last week:

“We are always on the lookout for possible new sites all over the country and are often in negotiations for suitable schemes for Express stores. However, these often never materialise. Until an agreement is reached we would not comment on individual cases.”

The Tescopoly Alliance was launched in June 2005 to highlight and challenge the negative impacts of Tesco’s behaviour along its supply chains both in the UK and internationally, on small businesses, on communities and the environment. The campaign also advocates national and international legislation needed to curb the market power of all the major British supermarkets.

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  1. Tony Carberry

    As a resident in Broomfield/Herne, I am appalled that consideration could be given to a Tesco store on the site in question, there are two very good stores serving the villages, one of which is thriving under new management and providing a much needed convenience store for the residents in the area. There is simply not a need for the new store, and any benefit it may give to those who use it would be far outweighed by the effect to local business and community. Mr Vickery-Jones is out of touch with the people of the villages clearly, perhaps he has not been in our local stores and supported them as so many of us do, and seen the benefit small friendly businesses bring in making a community spirit thrive once more. I for one will not be using Tesco if it opens here, and would urge others do do likewise, we need to keep our villages and community as it is, and not start bringing in big players who have no care or compassion for the locality.

  2. Stop Tesco Now

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HFoBxYOI2mwThe last stronghold against Tesco, the battle for truth and justice has just begun. Stand up and join the brave people of Herne now.On the 12th of February 2012 the people of Herne united against their latest invader Tesco. The Tesco stock plunged almost 20% that day.We call upon the people of the world to join us. Peace to you all