Archive for the ‘Public Inquiry’ Category.

FAQs: Tesco backs down from second Public Inquiry

As you may know, Tesco lost the first Public Inquiry, which saw an independent government inspector uphold the decision of local Councillors to refuse planning permission on sound planning grounds.

Tesco have just pulled out of the Public Inquiry for their other planning application (which was also refused), because they obviously think they would lose that too.

So what happens now? Here are some frequently asked questions, and some answers:

Tesco say they can open without any further planning permission.

They can’t. Even if they used refrigeration units that required no external plant (which is what they are talking about), they’d still need air conditioning which would require external plant, and so would need planning approval. This just puts them back to square one of the planning process.

If Tesco could open a store without any further planning permission, why haven’t they done it already?

Last summer, they went to all the trouble and expense of making a planning application just for refrigeration and air conditioning. When they lost that, they went to the even greater trouble and expense of spending several months preparing for a public inquiry (which they have backed out of because they obviously think they would lose that too). Now they say that they can open exactly the same store without any permission at all. If that were really true, they would never have spent 9 months trying to get their equipment approved, when all this time they could have been trading.

Every time Tesco lose here, they try to spin it as a success by saying they are about to open anyway. They’ve been doing this for a year now, and they still haven’t managed to open a store on Mill Road.

When Tesco reapply for planning permission for air conditioning, won’t such a small application automatically be approved?

No, because they will have most of same problems that caused them to lose all their previous planning applications and the first inquiry. That’s because approval of the application would be necessary for the store to open. This means approving the application would cause them to start making deliveries, and they still plan to make deliveries in exactly the type of lorry that councillors and the planning inspector decided could not deliver safely to this site.

Can’t they just use smaller delivery vehicles?

They told the public inquiry that it would not be possible to run a store using only smaller vehicles. This is one of the reasons their appeal was turned down.

Tesco say the store would create 25 new jobs.

It won’t. It won’t even create the 20 extra jobs they were suggesting a year ago.

A Tesco Express here wouldn’t create extra jobs in the area. It would replace existing, full-time jobs, in the stores they put out of business, with part-time jobs. (Almost all jobs in Express stores are part-time, with only a couple of full-time posts).

The evidence from other towns tells us that the opening of a Tesco Express on Mill Road would force the closure of some of the existing shops, putting people out of work. If a Tesco Express opens, it is likely to take far more full-time jobs away from the area than it would create.

It’s not clear where Tesco have got the figure of 25 from anyway. In the original plans, they said that they didn’t know how many people they would need to employ. Then they said that the store with an extension would create 20 jobs. Now they are saying that a store without the extension will create 25 jobs. So, they are saying that a much smaller store will need more people working in it. This doesn’t seem very likely, but it looks like useful spin in the middle of a recession.

Won’t a Tesco Express be cheaper than existing shops on Mill Road?

No, it will be more expensive.

That’s because it doesn’t sell any of the Tesco Value range or have any of the cheaper product lines of the bigger Tesco stores. A shopping basket comparison between a Tesco Express and a larger Tesco in Dorset in November found that the Express was 19% more expensive than the larger Tesco. A comparison we did last year showed that the prices in the Cherry Hinton Tesco Express were 26% higher than in the Newmarket Road Tesco.

At the same time, we compared prices in the Cherry Hinton Tesco Express with prices in existing shops on Mill Road (Londis, Hilarys, the Co-op, Bangla Bazar, Yasrab and Balvs). The Mill Road shops were 11% cheaper than the Tesco Express.

If people don’t like Tesco, they can shop elsewhere

Unfortunately, they are unlikely to have that choice. The evidence from all over the country is that the opening of a Tesco Express puts existing, independent shops out of business. The House of Commons All-Party Small Shops Group Report says that the closure of independent stores where the big supermarket chains open convenience stores is “inevitable”. A Tesco Express is likely to force the closure of several existing shops on Mill Road.

If people chose to shop at a Tesco and other shops eventually close wouldn’t that just be fair competition?

No. Small, local independent retailers in an area like Mill Road inevitably struggle to compete with a company as powerful and aggressive as Tesco, however good they are. Supermarket giants like Tesco use a variety of means to draw customers away from other shops – some legal, some not. For example, Tesco and the other big supermarkets have enough economic power to enable them to sell staple goods at a loss as a way of drawing in new customers (‘loss leaders’).

Their wealth also enables them to run short-term voucher schemes in new stores, offering huge discounts until the viability of rival shops is threatened. Then the prices go up again. Obviously, local independent shops don’t have the resources to run similar schemes.

Less legally, Tesco was also one of four supermarkets involved in a cartel with dairy companies to fix the prices of milk, butter and cheese, according to the Office of Fair Trading last year. This isn’t the only ruling relating to Tesco’s anti-competitive practices the last couple of years: in September 2007, the Competition Commission found that Tesco had acted to block competition in Slough.

Fair competition requires something like a level playing field, not a situation where one player has the wealth and the determination to force everyone else off the pitch.

STOP PRESS: Tesco withdraw their second appeal!

We have just heard from the City Council planning department that Tesco have withdrawn their appeal.

More news as we receive it.

CEN article: Tesco appeals dismissed over Mill Road store

TWO appeals by supermarket giant Tesco for permission to build an extension as part of plans to open a store in Cambridge’s Mill Road have been dismissed.

The company had wanted to build a single-storey extension at the back of the former Wilco store and install plant equipment. 

The application was made along with proposals for a shop front, ATM and two signs. 

But while Cambridge City Council approved two of Tesco’s planning applications, it rejected the proposed extension and installation of refrigeration equipment. 

Tesco appealed against the refusal of planning permission. It also lodged an appeal on the grounds of non-determination. 

A four-day hearing was held at the beginning of October and now planning inspector David Nicholson has dismissed both appeals. 

He concluded the servicing options for the store would “pose unacceptable risks to highway safety”. Sonia Cooter, co-ordinator of the No Mill Road Tesco campaign, said: “We are very happy. 

“The planning inspector quite comprehensively ruled out any safe delivery options. It’s up to Tesco now to decide whether they want to go any further. 

“We are delighted that the planning inspector realised just how dangerous it would be to deliver to the site.” 

Martin Lucas-Smith, co-ordinator of Cambridge Cycling Campaign, who gave evidence at the public inquiry, said: “Cambridge Cycling Campaign is delighted to hear that Tesco’s ridiculous proposals for deliveries directly from Mill Road or by sending large lorries down the narrow streets of Romsey have been comprehensively and unequivocally thrown out by the Government inspector. 

“We objected to the plans and the Government inspector has accepted the evidence we put forward at the public inquiry that cyclists and indeed everyone else using Mill Road would be badly affected by Tesco’s delivery proposals. 

“We hope now that Tesco will stop wasting taxpayers’ money and everyone’s time, and withdraw their second appeal, in which exactly the same issues apply.”

A statement released by Tesco read: “We are obviously extremely disappointed by this decision. We will be considering the report and looking at our options. 

“However, we still remain committed to Mill Road and think that a Tesco Express will add to the vibrancy of the area. We now await the Inquiry date for air conditioning and refrigeration plant.”

Cambridge Evening News, 12/11/2008


Breaking news: Tesco have LOST their first appeal (and the associated non-determination appeal) for the Mill Road site.

The Inspector concluded:

“I find that both of the realistically available servicing options would pose unacceptable risks to highway safety, which would not be outweighed by benefits or the fallback position. I therefore conclude that both appeals should be dismissed.”

Read the full Appeal decision letter from the Government Inspector.

It remains to be seen if Tesco will pursue their second appeal (for an application to instal plant with no extension).

For now, though, we would like to thank everyone who has made this possible. Thank you if you came on the march, wrote letters of objection, emailed your councillors, formed part of our human lorry, trudged around delivering leaflets and posters or just spoke to people about Tesco’s plans. This campaign has been a huge community effort and everyone’s contribution has been vital.

Have a look at the new counter on the right-hand side of this page to see how many days we as a community have so far managed to keep Tesco off Mill Road!

CEN article: Anxious wait as Tesco appeal hearing closes

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

CEN article: Weight ban ‘of no use’

TESCO has told a planning inspector its Mill Road store will be useless if large lorries are banned from making deliveries.
One of the reasons Cambridge City Council rejected the supermarket’s application for a single-story extension and installation of plant equipment at the former Wilco site was that the only way of servicing the store using 10.3 metre-long rigid axle vehicles was via Mill Road, putting public safety at risk and holding up traffic.

Planning inspector David Nicholson asked Rupert Lyons, director of Pinnacle Transportation Limited, appearing for Tesco, whether the store could operate without those vehicles.

He said: “If, for example, I were to apply a condition to a permission that said no vehicles above the size of, say, a transit van, could deliver, would that permission be worth anything to you?”

Mr Lyons replied: “I don’t believe so, no sir.”

There are three options for deliveries: stopping on Mill Road; driving around a loop of Catharine Street and Sedgwick Street, or vehicles being allowed to access Sedgwick Street from Mill Road, which would require a change to traffic rules.

The inquiry heard Cambridgeshire County Council is unlikely to grant a traffic regulation order to allow access to the rear yard from Mill Road, although Tesco is willing to pay for the move if the highway authority changes its mind.

Asked how he would service the Tesco Express, Mr Lyons said the “pragmatic approach” would be for deliveries of newspapers, mail and milk to be made from Mill Road before 8.15am and the larger deliveries made to the back of the store.

In the afternoon, Tesco’s second witness Matthew Roe, director of planning at CgMs Ltd, gave evidence.

He said Tesco’s plans would provide “a valuable facility to local residents and workers by meeting convenience shopping needs”.

He said the proposed extension would have a “positive impact” on Mill Road and increase footfall as well as bringing a vacant unit back into use.

The planning appeal concludes today.

Cambridge Evening News, 3rd October 2008

Public Inquiry Speech – our opening statement

[This was followed by our Planning Statement which will be online in due course. This speech below was to set the tone for why we exist.]

I would like to make a brief statement explaining to the inquiry the reason for the existence of the No Mill Road Tesco campaign, before handing over to my colleague Dr Deyermond, who will cover the campaign’s planning objections to Tesco’s applications.

After all, as a Planning Inspector you visit many towns, making decisions in accordance with national and local planning policy. For someone representing Tesco, this is simply another relatively small store in another street in another town. Next week, no doubt, there will be another case involving another store in another street in another town.

For us, though, this is our town, and our community, and we think it is worth fighting for.

Continue reading ‘Public Inquiry Speech – our opening statement’ »

Public Inquiry – public attendence

The Public Inquiry forced by Tesco’s appeal to the Planning Inspectorate will start on Tues 30 September 10am, at the Guildhall Council Chamber, Market Square.

It’s very important as many people as possible come along to show the strength of local feeling.

Please be there by 9.45am.

The Campaign will be speaking, but anyone else wishing to speak (the more the better) may inform the Planning Inspector then, and you can say if you do not wish to be questioned by the lawyers present.

The atmosphere should be non-confrontational.

The Inquiry is scheduled to continue on Wednesday 1st and Thursday 2nd October.

You do not need to be there all the time, or every day – just for the 10am start on Tuesday 30th September and stay for as long as you can.