So Tesco won its application to expand in Lewes yesterday, increasing its already massive share of Lewes’s money and further undermining an already fragile and complex local economy and employment structure. It was interesting to watch how the drama played out in the formal planning meeting. The two members of the planning committee who spoke to accept the application said they opposed it but could find no material objection that would stand up to appeal. In my view, having read the documents, if the committee members had been minded to, they could have called on a number of laws now in place to prevent this kind of monopoly. They could have commissioned better, independent research. But they didn’t and the legal officers, ultimately, ran the process last night. A sad day for democracy.
But hey, I’m not sad. I did everything in my power to prevent the extension. I researched and wrote about it here. I had fun taking part in publicity antics like the Tesco whirl. We got 1,000 signatures, which meant that those 1,000 people are thinking more carefully about the ethics of their food. I got to know the wonderful Marina Pepper a little better. And I learned more about how corporations and local government work.
And much more importantly, I’m also helping create better alternatives. I’ve joined a Transition Town Lewes group forming to create a weekly local produce market, thanks to the support of the Lewes Town Partnership and Lewes District Council. We met yesterday, before the Tesco debacle, and had really positive meeting with vision, skill pooling and can-do. It’s going to be a wonderful market, with affordable, nutritious, local food providing creative enterprise opportunities for many people and rebuilding our relationships with each other and the land around us.
The old paradigm and the new are so poignantly juxtaposed. Here we are at the cusp of transition from an industrial growth society that has, especially in my generation, all but destroyed our collective natural capital. We live in the last days of unchecked greed; the machine is running out of fuel. And little by little, this creative, collaborative parallel public infrastructure is forming, not just through the Transition movement but in many, many different individual and collective ways, quietly, gently, persistently, beautifully.