Tesco’s retrospective planning application habit

This document was sent to Councillors on the East Area Committee in February 2008.

As you know, in their comments on the first application by Tesco, the planning officers recommended that a number of conditions be attached to approval. Although this would be entirely reasonable under normal circumstances, we are concerned that the seemingly contemptuous attitude that Tesco has to planning conditions renders them ineffective instruments in this case.

As is well known, Tesco routinely applies for retrospective planning permission for aspects of its developments that do not meet the conditions placed on the original development. A few examples illustrate this:

  • In October 2007, Basildon Council announced that it was considering legal action against Tesco, after Tesco built a 111 space car park without permission. The local paper noted that “Tesco spokesman Michael Kissman could not explain why planning permission had not been sought sooner”.[1]
  • In April 2007 Tesco applied for retrospective planning permission for changes to a store in Southampton, only five weeks after it opened. Although permission was given, in return for Tesco’s agreement to contribute to various highway improvements, the chair of the council planning panel complained that “all of us are fed up with Tesco believing they can do exactly what they like”.[2]
  • In August 2007, Edmundsbury Borough Council refused to grant retrospective planning permission for an extension to a Tesco store, although the planning officers recommended approval. After listening to people living next to the store, they agreed that it was dominating surrounding homes and blocking out light. One of the councillors on the planning committee commented that “people should be able to enjoy their gardens when they want and not when Tesco wants them to”.[3]
  • In Stockport, Tesco built a store 20% larger than the store they had been given permission for. This was eventually retrospectively approved in September 2006, despite the fact that, according to the local paper, it was contrary to Stockport’s unitary development plan – seemingly because the store provided jobs in an area of very high unemployment. One of the councillors told the paper: “You’ll never, ever get me to believe this wasn’t deliberate. They knew from day one they were going to do this. But you have to remember it has created 500 jobs in an area that was desperate for jobs.”
  • In June 2005, Tesco sought retrospective permission to vary the condition placed on the number of deliveries to its store in Clowne, Derbyshire. The retrospective permission was to allow up to four deliveries per night, between 11pm and 6am.

Given their well-publicised track record of ignoring original planning conditions and then seeking retrospective approval, we would strongly urge you to recognise that were you to approve Tesco’s applications, the conditions suggested by the planning officers would be effectively meaningless. It is, of course, always possible that Tesco might choose to respect them, but it cannot simply be assumed that they will.

As the individuals responsible for ensuring that local residents’ interests are protected in this matter, we think that you have a responsibility to consider the impact that Tesco breaching proposed conditions related to noise and to deliveries would have on people living close to the store.

[1] “Tesco’s Unauthorised Car Park”, 30 October 2007. http://www.echo-news.co.uk/search/display.var.1794794.0.tescos_unauthorised_car_park.php

[2] http://www.dailyecho.co.uk/display.var.1311117.0.tesco_store_changes_are_belatedly_approved.php

[3] http://www.telegraph.co.uk/money/main.jhtml?xml=/money/2007/08/29/cntesco129.xml&CMP=ILC-mostviewedbox

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