The supermarket chain Tesco has accumulated private land worth over £20 billion, with large swathes of it left unused, a new investigation has revealed.
The Guardian newspaper said that the total unused land hoarded by Tesco equated to 4.6m sq metres, with 310 sites without a store.
An estimated 15,000 new homes could potentially be built on the unused land owned by the supermarket.
The findings come at a time when the Labour party are considering a policy that would enforce the use and development on land bought by private companies – a move to stop the monopolising of private land in the UK.
Large companies like Tesco have been accused in the past of deliberately buying up land, or ‘land banking’, around towns and cities to prevent competition from other retailers.
This is a direct infringement on a Competition Commission order which prevents the buying up of land to prevent competition. Tesco now faces fines as it refused to sell underdeveloped land to other supermarkets and companies – regardless that the chain had no intention to use the desired land.
The chain has also bought up successful localised businesses like pubs – which it has then turned into convenience stores. The grocer has also bought unused land close by to competing supermarkets – to prevent expansion.
A spokesperson for Tesco said, “We only buy land with the intention of delivering developments. Like other supermarkets, we own a pipeline of sites where we intend to develop new stores for our customers over the coming years.
“As we have previously announced, in response to changing customer shopping habits we have decided to reduce the new space we build each year, building fewer large stores.”
Similar accusations have been directed at the housing sector, as developers accumulate larger areas of land than supermarkets, yet also do not construct houses on the acquired land – regardless of the current housing shortage.
Ed Miliband’s Labour party has promised an end to land banking in order to double the amount of available housing – if his government is voted in.
The supermarket giant has also come under recent criticism for not paying its staff a living wage, with charities and campaigners arguing for its immediate implementation.
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