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Tesco’s new application (summer 2008): Grounds for Objection

Tesco have now made a new application for the old Wilco site. This application is for the installation of air conditioning and refrigeration plant only – there is no new application for an extension. (They are also still trying to get the refusal of the last application overturned by the Planning Inspector, but they don’t seem to think their chances are very good.)

You have until 8 July to write to the council. Please write to:

Mrs Angela Briggs
Environment and Planning,
Cambridge City Council,
The Guildhall,
CB2 3QJ.

Or email her at:

Ref 08/0794/FUL
Installation of plant installation equipment and development ancillary therto.
163-167 Mill Road Cambridge Cambridgeshire CB1 3AN

Or comment through the Council Planning Portal

Please write. The council needs to see how many local people don’t want a Tesco store on Mill Road so even if it’s only a couple of sentences it will make a difference – as Tesco say, every little helps!

Remember, planners who make a recommendation on the application and the councillors who then vote on it can only consider planning matters, not wider issues such as what you think about Tesco in general. If you want your voice to be heard, you need to make sure that you write to them about the application itself, and its physical impact on the area.

We have had a look at the application and, below, we highlight some of the problems with it. In summary, these are:

  • Noise pollution
  • The application makes no mention of deliveries to the store
  • The application includes no plans for waste storage and disposal
  • The application also gives no details of:
    • What the store’s opening hours would be
    • How many people would be employed
    • How many car parking spaces they plan to remove
    • What, if anything, they plan to store outside
  • Public Transport (In)Accessibility
  • Community consultation (or lack of it)

The refrigeration and air conditioning plant is necessary for Tesco to open a store on this site, so any issue relating to the impact of the proposed store on neighbouring homes or on traffic congestion and road safety is directly relevant to the application. This is because the council approving the application would cause these effects by allowing the store to open, when they would not otherwise happened if the store doesn’t open. As a result, they will have to be considered by planners and councillors.

Some of the problems with the new application include:

1. Noise Pollution

Tesco want to install refrigeration and air conditioning plant just a few metres from people’s homes. The refrigeration plant would run all the time and Tesco say they only (!!) want to run the air conditioning between 6.30 in the morning and 11.30 at night, seven days a week. This is obviously going to make life very noisy for people who live nearby. Tesco say that this type of equipment is “a common feature found in commercial areas”; even if that’s true it’s not really relevant because the proposal is to install this noisy equipment in a quiet, residential area.

2. The application makes no mention of deliveries to the store.

The issue of deliveries was one of the reasons why the council turned down the last application. In their last application, Tesco said that they wanted to make 30 deliveries a week, for up to 40 minutes at a time, many of them – they didn’t say exactly how many – in 10.35 metre (34 foot) lorries. They can’t legally do this on Mill Road because:

  • The Highway Authority said it would be unsafe to create a lay-by on Mill Road;
  • Not surprisingly, planning guidance prevents them stopping in the middle of the road, (i.e. without a lay-by) 30 times a week for up to 40 minutes at a time;
  • The building they want to turn into a store has a specific planning condition placed on it that prevents on-street deliveries.

As part of the last application, Tesco said that they planned to ask for the Mill-Road end of Sedgwick Street to be made two-way so they could deliver to the back of the site. As our campaign and many other people said, this would be very dangerous.

As a result, the council decided that this was one of the reasons the last application should be refused. This time, Tesco have obviously decided to try to get round the problem by not mentioning deliveries at all! Since they haven’t included any details of any possible different delivery plans, we can only assume that they still want to stop the traffic on Mill Road for up to 40 minutes at a time, 30 times a week until they can get permission to drive their 34 foot lorries into oncoming car and bicycle traffic on Sedgwick Street. In other words, it has to be assumed that their delivery plans are still as unsafe, disruptive, and inconsistent with planning guidance as they were when the councillors decided they were grounds for throwing out the last application.

3. The application includes no plans for waste storage and disposal.

The application form asks “do the plans incorporate areas to store and aid the collection of waste?” and “have arrangements been made for the separate storage and collection of recyclable waste?” Tesco have ticked the box that says “No” to both of these questions.

Given the amount of food waste the store will generate and how close it will be to houses and flats, this is outrageous (bins full of rotting, out-of-date Tesco ready-meals will be particularly lovely in summer, at least if you’re a rat). Throughout the whole process, since the first application last autumn, Tesco have never given a clear answer to what they will do with food and other non-recyclable waste, despite the fact that the council have asked them to do so repeatedly.

4. The application also gives no details of

  • What the store’s opening hours would be;
  • How many people would be employed;
  • How many car parking spaces they plan to remove (even if they do nothing else, the installation of the air conditioning and refrigeration plant will remove some parking places, but they haven’t said how many);
  • What, if anything, they plan to store outside (delivery cages, for example). A much smaller store would almost certainly mean that they wanted to store cages and other things outside, but the planners said in their report on the last application that this would not be allowed because “any external storage onto the site would be visually intrusive and detrimental to the quality of the local townscape”. Tesco haven’t said how they plan to address this problem.

5. Public Transport (In)Accessibility

Tesco say in their application (Planning, Design and Access Statement, paragraph 2.5) that:

The site is well served by public transport with Cambridge Train Station located 600 metres to the south west and a number of bus routes running along Mill Road and the surrounding area. The site is therefore very accessible by public transport.

They said this in their last application and in their appeal to the Planning Inspectorate. In response, we pointed out that:

  • Only one bus passes the proposed store site (the Citi2). Even if this actually did run every 10 minutes during the day on Monday-Saturday as it’s supposed to, there are still the following problems:
    • It only runs once an hour on Sunday;
    • The north end of the route goes past the Chesterton Tesco Express, so no-one at that end of the route is going to get on a bus to go to a more distant Express store on Mill Road;
  • No other bus routes pass within 300 metres of the store site, and the site is not visible from any other bus route;
  • Since there are already 7 Tesco stores in Cambridge, it’s unclear why anyone would want to get a bus to travel to this Express store (the smallest format Tesco store, with the most limited range of products, and the highest prices) when there will almost certainly be a Tesco store the same size or larger that’s closer to where they live.
  • The idea that anyone would get the train from whichever town it is that doesn’t have its own Tesco (Sheringham and Harrogate are about the only places) and then walk over half a kilometre to use a Tesco Express store is absurd.

This means it is simply not credible that any customers would travel to the store by public transport. So why are Tesco saying this? Because otherwise they will have to admit that people not going to the store on foot are very likely to go by car, as they do at the Cherry Hinton and Chesterton Expresses. This will greatly add to all the problems of congestion and illegal/dangerous parking associated with the plans for the store.

And finally…

Community Consultation

What you think of Tesco in general terms (good or bad) is not relevant to the planning process. If you really want to say something about this then the most relevant way to do it is to talk about community consultation, which can be part of the planning process. (Bear in mind, though, that even this is almost certainly not going to be considered by the planners.)

The application form for planning permission includes the question “Have you consulted your neighbours or the local community about the proposal?” Not surprisingly, Tesco have ticked the box that says “No”.

However, on the “Listening to Communities” section of the Tesco website, Tesco say:

It is important that a new store opening is welcomed by local people. Tesco want to talk to local people when we plan our stores. We work closely with local communities so we understand local issues and concerns.


Obviously, Tesco’s behaviour on Mill Road is not even vaguely consistent with this claim.

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