Archive for 4th October 2008

CEN article: Anxious wait as Tesco appeal hearing closes

rachel.extance@cambridge-news.co.uk

Home - The former Wilco site where Tesco wants to move in.

The former Wilco site where Tesco wants to move in.

OPPONENTS of Tesco’s plans for a branch in Mill Road, Cambridge, are anxiously waiting for a decision on a planning appeal which has closed after four days of evidence.

The appeal, heard at The Guildhall, finished yesterday following a site visit to the former Wilco store.

Now David Howarth, Cambridge’s MP, is calling for planning rules to be changed so councils can keep supermarkets out of areas dominated by independent shops.

He spoke out as Tesco waits to hear if its appeal to build an extension and install plant equipment at a shop in Mill Road, which will allow it to open an Express store, has been successful.

Mr Howarth sat in on day three of the appeal in front of inspector David Nicholson.

One of the issues Mr Nicholson quizzed the council’s witnesses on was whether its approach would have been different if the shop’s previous owners Wilco had made the application.

Despite widespread concern at the supermarket giant’s decision to move into Mill Road, a desire to maintain the street’s independent image is not a planning consideration and Mr Howarth believes it should be.

He is backing local councillors Nichola Harrison and Kilian Bourke’s efforts to have Mill Road designated an Independent Business Zone and would like to see the Retail Development Bill, which has been going through the House of Lords, to become law.

This would divide shops into three classes and allow councils to keep larger stores out of an area if they want to.

Mr Howarth told the News: “The law should be changed so that it’s clear local authorities have the power to shape their own areas.

“It should be possible for a council to choose to make a particular shopping street a zone for independent shops and businesses. If they want to promote national chains, big supermarkets, they can do that. If they want a mix they would be allowed to that.

“Very rarely is the identity of the person holding that permission relevant. One of the things this bill does is it has three different kinds of shops.

“What Cambridge City Council wants to be able to do is distinguish between independent businesses where the money is going to stay in the community more and national and international businesses.”

The city council rejected Tesco’s plans, saying they would pose a risk to public safety and did not provide sufficient parking spaces.

Tesco dispute this and say there is sufficient on-street car parking in the area and the store would benefit residents by meeting convenience shopping needs, increase footfall in the area and bring an empty shop back into use.

A decision is expected in November.

Cambridge Evening News, 4th October 2008