Tesco plc is considering shrinking its long-established Goodge Street store, an investigation by Fitzrovia News has found.
In August the freeholder of the site, Estates and Agency, submitted a planning application to Camden Council seeking permission to change a loading bay door in Whitfield Street into an additional entrance to the neighbouring office building.
The planning application (incorrectly) stated that the door was no longer in use by the Tesco store and that the space behind the door had already been converted to office space under permitted development.
However, the details in the application were challenged by the Charlotte Street Association who wrote to Camden’s planning department to point out that the door was used for transferring goods into the store and the space next to it was not office space but part of the shop.
The implication from the planning application is that Tesco is considering reducing the size of the store, while the freeholder is considering its future options for the site.
The store is viewed by local residents and community groups to be an important destination for groceries and vital to keep Goodge Street as a local shopping street.
Tesco first appeared on the street in 1966 and it has weathered a number of changes and threats.
In 1988 it was under threat of closure, until local residents and community groups brought Tesco bosses and landlords Estates and Agency together to strike a deal to keep it open. Fitzrovia News reported it at the time as a victory for residents in Fitzrovia who needed an affordable place to shop.
Then in 2001 local people won another battle to keep the store open after Camden Council refused planning permission for the store to be enlarged. The disagreement centred on an on-street loading bay which the council said was unacceptable.
The case went to a planning appeal where the landlords, Tesco and local residents won the argument for an expanded store.
The enlarged store is now much bigger than it looks from the outside — extending back along Whitfield Street past an office entrance, and some mock windows, and shares part of the neighbouring office block.
But in the summer of 2021 Tesco Goodge Street was one of 89 stores that were downgraded from the “Metro” to “Express” format.
The automatic tills changed and those wanting to pay with cash now have to join a sometimes lengthy queue. Prices went up, staff were cut and opening hours reduced.
Now it seems another change is underway that could roll back the clock and cut down the size of the shop and with it less choice for hard-pressed local shoppers and more jobs at risk.
Fitzrovia News contacted Tesco and asked them if this is correct. We received a very short response that did not deny they were considering reducing the size of the shop.
“We appreciate this Tesco Express plays an important role in the local community and we look forward to continuing to provide a high quality range of products at this store,” said a Tesco spokesperson.
Tesco has several other small “Express” stores in the neighbourhood and there is a new application for a premises licence for a new shop at the south end of Tottenham Court Road.
But all these small stores carry a poorer range of goods than the Goodge Street store. Local people need easy access to affordable groceries to feed a family, especially during a cost of living crisis.