Locals split as Tesco arrives in Britain's smallest town

There are moves afoot to paint Tesco as the unfeeling big business after it just won a battle to build a 2000 sq metre supermarket in Britain's smallest town.

Like many a quaint market town across the UK, the residents of Manningtree, Essex, probably fall into two categories. There are folk who like things just the way they are, with a shop for everything and an admirable pride in being Britain's smallest town.

Then are those who would kill, just for the chance of one good shop where they could pick their weekly groceries in one shot without having to deal with quirky opening hours, inconsistent stock levels and the problem of finding a parking spot.

So now they have a big Tesco store and, of course, local shop owners are having a whinge about what this might mean for their business. No mention from them about the £22,000 that Tesco has donated for town centre initiatives, or the £50,000 towards a retail grant to help independent traders. These could be seen as generous contributions to the local economy, or as bribes to the community, take your pick.

Not that Tesco's application was universally opposed. There were organised campaign groups for both for and against sides.

Don't get me wrong, I'm no Tesco booster but when a small place like Manningtree suddenly has a whopping great supermarket land on its doorstep, it means one huge advantage: jobs.

And with local jobs comes local money to spend in local shops. Sure, it'll mean having to change the window displays more than once every six months to keep things looking fresh and attract the newly-minted customers.

It's the sort of retail pick-me-up that all the grants in the world can't buy. Putting a bit of competition into the mix makes everyone sit up and spruce up, which is what many complacent little sleepy hollows in the UK could use.

Let's see how Manningtree mans up.
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