Squatters chained to railings. Protestors scuffling with police officers. It's amazing how passionately the people of Britain will fight off any challenge to the unique character of their neighbourhoods and high streets.

It was in February this year that residents' fight to prevent a Tesco Express store opening in a former comedy club in Stokes Croft, Bristol, became physical, with a long stand-off between protestors and police resulting in arrests for public order offences.

Campaigners believe the local council gave permission for a change of use of the premises without a proper consultation with residents and say Tesco's name did not appear in the planning application, submitted in November last year.

Stokes Croft is proud of its unique character and prepared to fight for it. Residents point out there are five Tesco stores within a mile of the proposed site, but Claire Milne of campaign group Say No To Tesco In Stokes Croft says: "This is not about being 'anti' something. This is about saying 'this is our beautiful community that we've worked so hard to play a really positive role in people's lives'. It's just absolutely outrageous that the council have come along and given permission for a Tesco without asking us."

Not just in Bristol, but across the UK, small stores are at the forefront of this resistance. The 14-year battle in Sheringham, Norfolk, has seen a large community store which locals believe will complement existing traders given the nod over Tesco, while campaigners in Cambridge kept the retail giant out of the city's Mill Road for over two years, with 5,000 people signing a petition and 1,000 objecting to its planning applications.

Although the store is now open campaigners continue to encourage shoppers to support local independents.

A recent YouGov poll suggests there is widespread uneasiness about the power of the multiples, particularly the biggest of them all. It found that 43% of respondents nationally feel that Tesco is 'too powerful', 'pushes down prices for producers' and 'drives out competition from smaller shops', with almost half (47%) of Londoners and consumers in the North of England (48%) saying they thought it put smaller shops out of business. Resistance increases with age, too; some 48% of over-55s consider the supermarket giant to be 'a bad influence on Britain today'.

The key now is to harness that dissatisfaction as the protestors in Stokes Croft have. By resisting the multiples they have reminded local residents of all the things that make their area special and foremost among those are the vibrant, individual and irreplaceable shops. That's something that any store faced with a giant on the doorstep will want to repeat.

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