Brownhills Senior Citizens Centre : The Tesco Chainstore Massacre continues

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The Walsall Advertiser letters page has been improving a tad of late. More often than not it’s just the soapbox for tedious blowhards like Ian Payne. Just lately there has been some excellent correspondence on the subject of Brownhills Tesco development and the dismay caused in the community by the plans to demolish the Senior Citizen’s Centre in order to provide a small overflow car park for the new Tesco hypermarket.

Thankfully, the plight of the pensioners hasn’t passed the media by and there has been excellent publicity in most of the local media. It’s nothing short of a scandal that the likes of Councillor Adrian Andrew should imagine that destroying valuable community facilities in order to provide car parking is in any way acceptable, particularly so when it seems to be little more than a pathetic attempt to save face over the crash of Brownhills Market, clearly euthanised for Tesco, who oddly seem to have more influence over our municipal governors than the people who elected them. Lets make no mistake here, what the retail giant wants it will get, without anyone at the council daring to demand they give anything back to the town.

The letter from community activist and top chap Brian Stringer sums up the relationship that Tesco seem to have with their host community.

I AGREE with Mrs Mead who writes of her concerns for the Brownhills Senior Citizens Centre in Pier Street “Our club is more than a building,” (Advertiser, June 24).

She has every right to be concerned, if their fate lies in the hands of Tesco. Since their arrival in Brownhills, have shown little interest in the community while Asda build Cannock a park as a goodwill gesture, Tesco, I fear, will ride roughshod over anything that gets in their way and sadly this includes Walsall Council.

The true colours of Tesco were revealed to me with the revelation that a recently held festival, when local traders were asked to chip in, Tesco donated a £10 voucher.

This sums up the concern of Tesco for Brownhills.

Keep battling Mrs Mead and I hope this letter will strengthen your cause. I heard somewhere, every little helps.

Brian Stringer, Brownhills.

Brian is replying to this excellent letter, published the previous week, from Mrs. R Mead of Walsall, who made an impassioned defence of this vital and well-loved facility.

I WOULD like to make some points regarding Brownhills Senior Citizens’ Club.

Tesco wants to bulldoze us to make way for a new car park for their superstore.

It does not to give us a building like we have had for more than 20 years; it wants to put us in a room somewhere.

We are only a building to Tesco and Walsall Council, but we are more.

This is a meeting place for our members to have a chat with their friends over a cup of tea and biscuits, play bingo, raffles etc.

We have a full working kitchen which has served the public since being built.

We have a busy club. We have social evenings – fish-and-chip suppers, skittles, bingo and buffet nights – with a room we would not be able to do this.

We can open and close our building, use it as often as we can, but a room would not suit us and that’s all that’s on offer.

I would ask the council to check our ground out, because I feel it would make the ideal market space.

We have a huge car park which used to hold about 30 vans when the market was in full swing.

Tesco is going to give the council some land for this we hear.

We could work with the markets and keep open ourselves.

A lot of money has been spent on our building since October 2009 – new windows, The Prince’s Trust redecorated inside and the Pay Back team cleared bushes and pruned trees, planted 1,000 bulbs.

Many people gave their free time. Businesses loaned equipment for free, so how can they justify knocking us down for a car park?

We are not going without a fight. Why should Tesco be allowed to just decide it wants somewhere without a thought for people or livelihoods? People have to give up their shops as they want us to do. The police hold a surgery once a month as well. We are in the news, but Tesco and the council are unavailable to comment.

Mrs R Mead, Walsall.

I notice that Walsall Council and Tesco have been using language in their publicity material that suggests we should welcome the opportunity to shop at this huge new facility, and that we deserve a better store. I’m growning increasingly irritated by this patronising, facetious tone; Tesco are a big company. They aren’t giving us anything at all, except the opportunity to increase their profits. This is about cold, hard cash, not community. Like any retail operation, what the company wants is to extract as much money as it can, whilst returning as little as possible to maximise profit.

How commerce works...

I noted on Facebook the other day that people still seem to believe there’s some secret plan from ‘trusted sources’ for the development, that suggests the Brownhills store will front onto the High Street and do all this magical stuff for the town centre. I think they’re going to be a little disappointed, unless our burghers actually grow some balls and demand that Tesco give something to Brownhills in return for our permission to operate here.

Unfortunately for us, Tesco seem to be wearing the trousers and Walsall Council appear supine before them.

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13 Responses to Brownhills Senior Citizens Centre : The Tesco Chainstore Massacre continues

  1. The Walsall Anarchist says:

    While the Con-Dem government dismantles our nation with a blunt and bloody hacksaw and sells our heritage down the river to bankers and bloated corporations, its idiot offspring Walsall Council seems to be hell-bent on destroying the spirit of local people through indolence and incompetence. Their lack of vision is blinding…

    Is this more a case of cock-up than conspiracy? Sadly it’s hard to tell in the banana republic that is Walsall.

    But of course, out of Walsall town centre, out of mind. If it’s not in the “civic quarter”, it doesn’t really matter, does it?

  2. stymaster says:

    I think the current situation is engineered. It started with the trading standards crackdown on the market: It had been selling goods of questionable legality for some years (as long as I can remember, in fact), but all of a sudden it was cracked down on. Then Spook Erection got turfed out, which killed it properly. Handily ready for a new Tesco store.

  3. Andrew says:

    Or is it part of the cuts package that we are told we must have? No centre = no council support and therefore a cut made.

  4. Freddy says:

    Is there any move in the area to organise resistance to the Tesco plans, some kind of meeting? Linking it to the cuts and broadening it to include service provision for other groups – It’s not just about pensioners, it’s a wider communit issue seems like a good starting point.

    Also Walsall Anarchist! I didn’t know there was a funtioning group in the town. There’s a bit of history to libertarian organising in Walsall ranging from the Bennett brothers who left for the US, joined the IWW before fighting in the Spanish civil war as part of the international brigades where one of them was killed. The surviving brother returned to Walsall and started the first IWW branch in the UK.

    There’s also the rather odd story of the Walsall Anarchists who in the 1890’s made bombs that couldn’t blow your socks off and argued about whether the blowing up of a cow in Belgium represented a “great and good revolutionary act” or not.

  5. Mark says:

    Hi Freddy

    Just to be clear, I believe the Bennett brothers were not anarchists but firmly in the Stalinst camp and I seem to remember that the survivor’s son Brian (also now deceased) told me that his Dad was decorated personally by old Joe himself.

    Mark

  6. Freddy says:

    That’s interesting Mark. I heard of the Bennett brothers from the late George Barnsby and he told me the story of the surviving brother returning to Walsall and founding an IWW branch. I assume in Spain they were members of the Abraham Lincoln Brigade which was a very mixed bunch politically with everyone from wobs to stalinists.

    There was a very active Communist group in Walsall in the 30’s and it’s certain that Don Bennett’s IWW branch didn’t set the world on fire. Did he abandon the Wobs for the CP? He wouldn’t be the first to make such a move.

  7. Mark says:

    Freddy

    An ‘anarchist’ mate of mine, the Chuckery based musician and writer Barrie Roberts (also deceased) did a series of tape interviews with Don Bennett about his life and times with the International Brigade. Barrie told me that Don said they used to shoot anarchists in Spain, but despite that, the two became good friends. I think the tapes are lost, perhaps destroyed in a house fire but if anyone knows otherwise then I’d love to hear the tapes again.

    Don’s son Brian was a real firebrand and was chief shop steward at Rubery Owen in the 1970s and he went on to do a lot of good work for dispossessed people in Pleck in the 1980s.

    Incidentally, Barrie also wrote a guide and curated a show sometime in the early 90s at Walsall Library on the Walsall Anarchist bomb plot which I believe expanded on George Barnsby’s original pamphlet.

    Not sure what any of this has got to do with Tesco though…

  8. Freddy says:

    Nothing at all, it’s interesting though. I’d like to know who he thought was shooting anarchists in Spain, apart from nationalists.

    • Mark says:

      Soviet-backed communists… the ant-fascist forces on the Left were far from united and deeply ideologically divided – much to Franco’s advantage

  9. Freddy says:

    I know there was a lot of division within the Republican forces. The part the International Brigades played in this interests me. The Lincoln and Washington Brigades were both at Bechite, Aragon in August 1937 where the Communists had an agenda of weakening anarchist influence but I wasn’t aware there was any open fighting between anarchist and communists units there. A few months earlier in Catalonia there was open street fighting between communists, anarchists and the Marxist POUM that left hundreds dead and POUM destroyed in the area but the International Brigades weren’t involved.

    The Spanish Civil war is fascinating from a political and social point of view and to some extent militarily but so much is lost.

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