CEN article: Tesco protesters hit out at ‘arm-twisting’

CAMPAIGNERS have fired a furious volley at Tesco bosses after they “bulldozed” council planners.

The No Mill Road Tesco Campaign has accused the supermarket giant of “arm-twisting” and “disrespect” after it bypassed slow moving councillors over plans for its store in the street famed for unique shops.

Angry Tesco bosses lost patience with the council after delays on its planning applications and lodged an appeal with the planning inspectorate.

Cambridge City Council hold-ups on the three applications for an Express shop in Mill Road could hit taxpayers’ pockets.

Planning officers had recommended the plans for approval despite a massive public outcry.

The council has failed to make a decision on the applications within normal timescales. That failure could lead to financial penalties for the local council. Tesco lodged its plans for the store 18 weeks ago. A spokeswoman from the No Mill Road Tesco Campaign said: “Tesco say that the choice to avoid an appeal now lies with the council – presumably if they vote in favour of Tesco. This is precisely the type of arm-twisting tactic that gives Tesco such a bad name.

“In taking this step, Tesco have shown their lack of respect for local democracy by attempting to pressurise council officers and the councillors before the decisions have been taken.

“By choosing to lodge an appeal now, Tesco are potentially costing Cambridge Council Tax payers money with the costs they will claim from the council.”

She said it was regrettable the council had failed to meet planning deadlines. The campaign group had respected every deadline set. “This is in contrast to the repeated submission of new information and proposals by Tesco in the last three months – actions that must, presumably, have contributed to the delay about which they now complain.

“If Tesco really believe in local democracy, they will withdraw their appeal and allow local councillors to take the decisions on February 28. Given that although Tesco claim to listen to the local community, but have ignored the 5,000 signatures on our petition and the 1,100 planning objections lodged, this is unlikely to happen.

“We would encourage Tesco to rethink this decision which undermines the normal processes of local government and makes them look as if they are trying to get the result they want by putting pressure on the decision-makers. If they are confident of their applications they can save themselves and everyone else time and money by letting the normal planning process take its course.”

Cambridge Evening News, 30th January 2008

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