Tesco under fire again for hiding behind property agents

Tesco under fire again for hiding behind property agents



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Tesco has come under fire again, this time for using a property company to act as a front to buy a shopping centre which it then, allegedly, let run into disrepair so as to step in and buy it a few years later.

Residents and SNPs in Renfrewshire were horrified to learn that the supermarket giant – already renowned for controversy – used local property developer Balmore Properties to buy Linwood town centre’s precinct in 2001 for £1.7 million. 
Balmore, owned by entrepreneur Dallas Rhodes, acted as an agent on behalf of Tesco when it bought the shopping centre. Tesco then bought it outright six years later, reportedly for the same figure.
Tesco, which has been accused of ‘land banking’ in the past, readily admits to using such agents to secure land for development. However, local residents are accusing the supermarket of having deliberately allowed the precinct to become derelict so as to encourage a positive response when it put forward its plans later.
According to a report in the Scotsman newspaper, under Balmore, “dozens of shops were closed as it ruthlessly evicted retailers for minor misdemeanours – and refused shopkeepers' requests to have their leases extended. The precinct became blighted with derelict shops and graffiti-covered walls, and plagued by antisocial behaviour from local gangs.”
Balmore Properties’ takeover of the town centre became so controversial that in 2006, local member of the Scottish Parliament, Wendy Alexander, launched a “Boot out Balmore” petition, calling for an outside investor to regenerate the area. Shortly after Tesco acquired the precinct.
Speaking to the Scotsman newspaper, Ms Alexander said: “From 2001, Balmore's stewardship was simply a disgrace, following on from years of neglect. Balmore repeatedly refused to meet community or elected representatives.

"In 2005 and 2006, when I and many in the community were actively looking for a major retailer to step in and assist the regeneration of the town, the Tesco representatives who came forward and met the community, set up the Love Linwood site and held regeneration meetings, gave no indication to the community of any longstanding relationship with Balmore. They should have done so."
Annie Hall, who represents Linwood on West Renfrewshire Council, told the paper: “It had been run down by Balmore for a long time, then Tesco came in like a knight in shining armour and said they were going to fix it.
“It was all a con.”
A spokesperson for Tesco said: “It is common for Tesco to use an agent and secure land, Balmore Properties was an agent for Tesco at that time.
"This is a complex but important town centre regeneration scheme which, by its nature, can take a long time to pull together and get through the planning process.
"However, we shared our plans at the earliest opportunity with the community.”

He added: "No other developers or retailers have expressed an interest in Linwood in years and it is only Tesco's plans which will bring the change and regeneration which will attract shoppers and business back to Linwood.”
 

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