John Harris

Journalist & Author

‘We feel betrayed’: the towns abandoned by Tesco

Tesco’s profits crisis means that plans for 49 shiny new stores have been ditched. Where does that leave places such as Kirkby, Bridgwater and Wolverhampton, where regeneration schemes linked to the supermarket chain now lie in ruins?

At first sight, you would think something terrible had happened to the town centre of Kirkby. And in a way, it has. To all intents and purposes, this is a new town, built in the 1950s and 60s to house human “overspill” from Liverpool, 10 miles to the south-west. Its main feature is the modernist shopping centre that runs down Cherryfield Drive, Kirkby’s main drag – though these days, any visitor’s attention is more likely to be drawn to what sits on the other side of the road: two great mountains of rubble, which then give way to a strip of boarded-up buildings and an expanse of empty houses, some of which are already being demolished.

Look closely, and you can see curtains still draped in the windows, different shades of wallpaper, and, among the nearby debris, traces of the lives now being lived somewhere else. Nestling next to bricks and severed pipes are satellite dishes, garden furniture and a child’s car window shade featuring the incongruous image of Disney’s Winnie the Pooh. All of this sits behind a tangle of steel fences, and hoardings that feature the Tesco logo, along with the insignia of Spenhill – one of the supermarket giant’s subsidiaries, which specialises in construction – and a slogan that now has a grimly ironic ring: “Making life better.”

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