We all love shopping in Tesco and our other big supermarkets. They offer good value for money, a huge range of choice, fresh good quality produce and plenty of jobs for local people. So, what is there to complain about?
I think we need to look behind the superficial benefits of supermarkets like Tesco and find out what are the real costs of our obsession with these modern day temples of consumerism. Don't get me wrong, I'm the same as most of us: I like my supermarket, whether it's ASDA, Sainsbury, Tesco or Lidl. But I worry about the way in which smaller traders suffer and the money we spend is not recycled into the local economy. I worry about the exploitation of producers within the supply chain and the food miles which are travelled just to get us out of season cherries. There are many questions, including the potential for monopoly, cartels and fair trade.
Tesco is one of the worst. More than £1 in every £7 spent by consumers is now spent in a Tesco store. When the PR representative of Tesco came to see me following the initial application to Leeds City Council to double the size of the Roundhay Road store, she told me clearly and honestly that the aim or her company was to get the shopper to spend more of their weekly spend in a Tesco store - nothing wrong with that you might think, but just consider the effect on the Oakwood Centre, the BP petrol station on Roundhay Road and probably the loss of trade lower down Roundhay Road in some of the small corner shops and specialist food stores.
People will argue that they have a right to buy petrol at the cheapest possible price, and that competition from Tesco will drive down the prices at nearby garages. I can't argue with that, but what will happen when - as it inevitably will - the BP station closes because it doesn't have Tesco's buying power and cannot compete on a level playing field? Is that really fair competition?
Matthew Lobley, as Roundhay Ward Councillor seemed to oppose the Tesco redevelopment in the last half of 2009, but on closer scrutiny, his submission to the Planning Department said that he had "no objection to the proposed development in principle", although he had some reservations about the design of the new building. This runs counter to what he said publicly and to what local residents told me they wanted: no redevelopment. Although the Plans Panel of elected Councillors initially deferred approval of the application by Tesco, in November their application was agreed with just the Conservative Chairman's casting vote - not really a ringing democratic endorsement.
Since the Council's approval, I have been trying to get the application 'called in' by the Government's Planning Minister, Lord McKenzie. To date, no decision has been made by him, though I will not let him off the hook.
I will carry on my opposition to this damaging development which will double the size of the existing Tesco store to the detriment of local traders. Every little helps, but you can have too much of a good thing!
I will also press for further investigation by the monopolies commission into the practices of Tesco, and the other supermarkets in the UK. We need real and fair competition if we are to have a true open market and Tesco's current dominance should be a concern to all of us.