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    Tesco Gets Go-Ahead For Distribution Center

    Judge denies environmental activist's second attempt to halt the construction.

    RIVERSIDE, Calif. -- Work on Tesco PLC's Riverside-area distribution center can continue now that a judge has denied an attempt to halt construction.

    According to a report by The Press-Enterprise, Temecula attorney Raymond Johnson last October sued Tesco and the March Joint Powers Authority, which oversees development at the Meridian business park where the 820,400-square-foot distribution center is being built. Johnson said he represents an organization of concerned citizens called Health First, and the lawsuit claimed that Tesco and March had skirted environmental laws and failed to address traffic and air-quality effects.

    Riverside County Superior Judge Thomas Cahraman on Tuesday denied Health First's claim because he said the group didn't show that the construction was causing irreparable harm,The Press-Enterprise reported.

    In a February court filing, Remco Waller, chief financial officer for Tesco Stores West, said construction delays would cost the company at least $1.6 million per week. Tesco Stores West is the company's U.S. division.

    On Tuesday, Tesco marketing director Simon Uwins said the company is on track to open at least a few stores in all three states by the end of the year. He wouldn't say whether construction of the distribution center is behind schedule, or when it will be finished. Once completed, the British retailer will use the facility to supply a chain of 100 small grocery stores called Fresh & Easy Neighborhood Market, which it plans to open in Southern California, Arizona and Nevada, the report said.

    Tesco has signed at least 71 store leases and has more than 100 locations in the pipeline, Uwins said, including 15 to 20 in Riverside and San Bernardino counties. The company will eventually employ about 4,000 people in the United States.

    This is the second time Johnson has tried to stop the project. In February, he filed for a temporary restraining order against Tesco, which a judge also denied. Johnson is known for using state environmental laws to battle proposed Wal-Mart stores and other construction projects around Southern California, The Press-Enterprise said.

    In the meantime, Tesco has asked Johnson to provide more information about Health First and its relationship with two other environmental community groups, saying it can't defend itself unless it knows who is suing the company. So far, Johnson has declined in court documents to provide the information. A hearing is set for April 30.

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