Council demands Tesco shutdown of ‘non-essential aisles’ in coronavirus regulations row

Tristan Kirk
·3-min read
The Tesco store in Osterley (Google)
The Tesco store in Osterley (Google)

Supermarket giant Tesco is at loggerheads with Hounslow Council over a demand to shut down part of a store west London for “going against the spirit” of coronavirus lockdown rules.

The local authority has issued a prohibition notice to the supermarket in Osterley following an inspection, demanding that the first floor is closed off to customers.

Revealing the move, council leader Steve Curran insisted the upper floor containing clothes and “other non-essential items” should not open to shoppers due to the national lockdown.

However Tesco has lodged an appeal against the prohibition notice, amid doubt that the council has the right to insist on the store’s partial closure.

"At a time when Hounslow has among the highest levels of COVID-19 in London it is vital we continue to take action to protect public health wherever we find concerns”, said Councillor Curran.

"In this case, because Government guidance advises that where areas selling essential goods are separate to those selling non-essential goods, access to the non-essential goods should be restricted, we have required the shop to restrict sale of non-essential goods on the first floor of the superstore. Access is still allowed to the café for a takeaway service.

"Our view is that Tesco's actions go against the spirit of the law in allowing shoppers to shop for the non-essential goods. We recognise that Tesco is a responsible retailer and would have hoped to see them working in line with government guidance, not in opposition to it.

"Tesco do not agree with the position we have taken. That is their right and they have exercised their right of appeal. While that is ongoing it would not be appropriate to comment further.”

He added: "We would ask Hounslow's residents though, to undertake only essential shopping. Browsing clothes is not essential. Please stay at Home, Protect the NHS and save lives."

Watch: When will the lockdowns end in each UK nation?

Welsh government said supermarkets had to cordon off non-essential item aisles during the country’s "firebreak" lockdown at the end of last year.

The UK government forced clothing stores and other outlets deemed ‘non-essential’ to close for this national lockdown, but included in its guidance specific rules for supermarkets.

“A business selling a significant amount of essential retail may also continue to sell goods typically sold at non-essential retail”, the guidance says.

“For example, a supermarket that sells food is not required to close off or cordon off aisles selling homeware.”

Barrister Adam Wagner, who has been analysing lockdown rules, reacted on Twitter to news of the prohibition notice by saying: “Oh dear the ‘spirit of the law’ is back.

“Power to impose prohibition notice is very wide and doesn't require that the local authority has identified breaches of the law. But the vagueness of the 'spirit of the law' may not go down well with a court looking at necessity and proportionality.”

A spokesperson for Tesco said: “The safety of our customers and colleagues is our number one priority.

“We believe that our Osterley Extra store complies with the government’s rules on Covid-19 measures and we were disappointed to receive this notice, which we are appealing.”

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