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Response to the Planning Officer’s supplementary report document of 14 January 2008

Most of the points in here are already addressed by our comments on the planning officers’ report. The ones that are not are considered below. For greater clarity, we have followed the structure of the planning officer’s document, commenting on paragraphs in the order that they appear in the document. We have reproduced sections of the planning officer’s comments (in blue) and commented on them directly underneath (in black).


There are three points that should be noted in particular:

  1. The claim that on-street deliveries to a Tesco Express would cause no more of an obstruction on Mill Road than on-street deliveries by Wilco is simply not reasonable.
  2. The planning officer’s statement that the Highway Authority did not object to on-street deliveries is incorrect – they objected not just to the creation of lay-by but to deliveries to the front of the store, on grounds of safety.
  3. The assertion that shoppers will not arrive by car if there are no parking spaces is unrealistic.

In addition, we think that the planning officer’s assessment should be revisited in light of the evidence we have collected from monitoring an existing Tesco Express store in Cherry Hinton. This clearly indicates both that Express stores are heavily used by shoppers arriving by car and that Tesco’s estimate of the number of deliveries required is incorrect.

Floorspace: Impact on traffic and parking

8.7 […] Limitation on parking and the difficulties created by the one-way system in place locally are in my view unlikely to mean that the additional floorspace would make the extended retail outlet a major attraction or significantly greater attraction for people using motor cars as their mode of transport. I do not consider that what is a relatively modest increase in floorspace will significantly increase traffic.

See our comments on the report’s unrealistic claims that the lack of parking will deter shoppers arriving by car. Please note that the floorspace is directly relevant to traffic because:

1. The applicants have said that this increase is necessary for the store to open as a Tesco Express. All the traffic implications, including of multiple deliveries (with their impact on congestion, noise, and highway safety), and the inevitable significant impact on car parking, therefore derive from this issue of floorspace. The increase in floorspace will be “a significantly greater attraction for people using motor cars as their mode of transport” because it is what will enable Tesco to open on the site, and this will attract more cars (see the comments from the Chesterton resident and the findings of our monitoring of the Cherry Hinton Tesco Express).

2. Since the nature of shop will in itself increase shoppers arriving in the area by car, the removal of the car parking spaces at the rear of the site that the extension (together with proposed deliveries to the rear of the site) requires, will generate further traffic and further congestion as shoppers search for spaces in the surrounding streets.

Extension: Vitality and Viability

8.8 I consider it not reasonable to argue that the addition of 87 sq metres of additional floorspace, within a District Centre will, of itself, affect the vitality and viability of that centre. […] PPS 6 advises that it is not the role of the planning system to restrict competition or preserve existing commercial interests and, therefore, these possible impacts are not matters that I can take into account in coming to a recommendation. For these reasons, in my view, the proposal accords with local plan policy and government policy on retail development as set out in PPS 6 “Planning for Town Centres.”

We appreciate that this is the planners view but we do not think it is a correct view. To take the points in order:

1 The extension will, of itself affect vitality and viability because

a. The applicant says that the extension is necessary to enable the shop to open (no extension = no Tesco Express);

b. The opening of a Tesco Express will necessarily have a detrimental impact on the vitality and viability of the local centre, as we have shown at length elsewhere.

2. With all due respect to the planning officers, the reference to PPS6 is spurious. The vitality and viability commitment is explicit in the Cambridge City Local Plan paragraphs 6.16, 6.17 and (as the planning officers themselves identify in their report) 6.24. If it were really the case that, as a general matter of planning principle, impacts on existing shopping centres cannot be taken into account in planning decisions, as the officer suggests above, why is it built into the Local Plan, which is informed by national guidance? The Local Plan is clear on this point: vitality and viability is a consideration of direct relevance to planning decisions.

3. For these reasons, the proposal does not accord with Local Plan Policy.

4. Furthermore, we think that it is incorrect to invoke PPS6 in this way since we understand that the Planning Inspectorate’s decision to uphold Barnet council’s refusal of planning permission for a Tesco Express on vitality and viability grounds was based in part on PPS6.

Residential Amenity: Impact of Extension on Surrounding Residential Properties

8.10 The proposed extension is of a modest scale and is considered to be proportionate to the main building. The proposed rear extension projects towards the residential quarters at Sedgwick Street, however its modest scale means that, in my view, it would be difficult to argue that the extension would have a significant impact on the reasonable residential amenities of the occupiers of Sedgwick Street or indeed the adjacent properties, 161 and 169 Mill Road.

As we have said elsewhere, the extension is not modest relative to the existing shop – it is equivalent to a third of the existing shop. Since it is projecting the back of the building closer to houses in Sedgwick Street, the noise of, for example, delivery cages being rolled in and out of the building will be much greater for these residential properties, as will the noise of the proposed refrigeration and air conditioning units, which will be located on a few metres away from both the flat at 161a Mill Road and the nearest house on Sedgwick Street. Any externally stored waste will be a similar distance away from residential properties; unlike the Wilco store, the nature of a grocery store will mean that this raises issues. The very significant reduction of the unloading area/car park will, as the applicant’s swept path analysis for deliveries indicates, place delivery lorries immediately next to a residential property.

The building of an extension would also entail the removal of almost all on-site parking spaces; this will have a significant negative impact on the amenities of the adjacent businesses, who use the car park. This will force their cars and their clients’ cars to park on the street (where Tesco wish to remove four parking spaces), which will, in turn, have a negative impact on local residents.

Highway Safety

8.14 Conditions 2 & 3 of C/71/0826

“2. The loading and unloading area and the parking spaces shown on drawing number 71/258/1 shall be permanently maintained for that purpose.

3. No loading or unloading of goods, including fuel, shall take place otherwise than within the curtilage of the site.

The reason given for both the conditions is: To avoid obstruction of the surrounding streets and to safeguard the amenities of adjacent premises.

8.15 the reasons for the conditions, “To avoid obstruction of the surrounding streets and to safeguard the amenities of adjacent premises” are in my view reasons that would not be offended by the occupiers of this premises loading and unloading in Mill Road,

We find this assertion bizarre and simply not consistent with reality. To state that the streets surrounding the property (most immediately, Mill Road and Sedgwick Street) would not be obstructed by at least 30 on-street deliveries per week (several of them by very large vehicles) is simply unrealistic. Any on-street loading and unloading would create an obstruction on this part of Mill Road for several hours per week and this would in turn obstruct the flow of traffic from Sedgwick Street into Mill Road. As is well known, Mill Road already suffers from problems of congestion and from one of the worst accident records in Cambridgeshire. Loading and unloading on Mill Road would offend the reasons for the existing conditions, without any doubt whatsoever. The suggestion in 8.18 that there could be any meaningful comparison between the degree of obstruction caused by on-street deliveries to the previous occupants of the site and a convenience store owned by a company with a ‘just in time’ delivery policy that will result in at least 30 deliveries per week seems to us to be so unrealistic as to be unreasonable.

8.16 […The applicants] have also advised that they would seek a Traffic Regulation Order, which if granted would allow two-way movement of motor vehicles on the first (the southern) part of Sedgwick Street, thereby allowing a vehicle into the site. Such an order would not be without difficulties, however, as the swept path of a 10.35 rigid vehicle would require the removal of some on-street car parking spaces in Sedgwick Street and the loss of 5 on-site car parking spaces.

It is true that the proposals to deliver to the rear of the site will result in the loss of five car parking spaces, but this figure needs to be added to the removal of ten car parking spaces that would result from the proposed extension. Of the remaining three parking spaces identified in the applicants’ revised drawings, two appear to be two of those currently set aside for the adjoining estate agent and one is a disabled parking space, which is located directly behind the proposed path of the reversing 10.35m delivery vehicle.

On-Street Delivery and the Highway Authority’s View

8.16 […] The applicant has […] advised that they would wish to continue servicing the site from the highway, as the previous occupiers did.

8.17 The Local Highway Authority is not raising objection to the continued servicing of this site from Mill Road,

The planning officer also states in paragraph 8.19 that

While the County Council would welcome servicing from the side street, which it considers is practicable in certain circumstances, they clearly do not consider the absence of such an option should be fatal to the application. In the absence of any objection to the servicing from Mill Road by the County Council, I do not consider that highway safety constitutes a sound reason for refusing the application.

We find these assertion very surprising given that are directly contradicted by the comments of the Highway Authority themselves. One of the reasons for the Highway Authority’s objection in October 2007 to proposed servicing from a lay-by at the front of the site was that

Given the level of servicing that the proposed unit is likely to generate there is a strong possibility that there be significant movement of goods from any delivery vehicle to the store which has a high potential for pedestrian conflicts, again to the detriment of pedestrian safety.

The planning officer’s assertion is not consistent with this.

Delivery Frequency

8.18 […] The objectors claim that the proposal will be significantly worse than the proposed occupier, and worse yet than the applicant has suggested.

It should be noted that what the planning officer refers to as ‘our claim’ was in fact – as we made clear in our original objection document – Tesco’s own estimate of the number of deliveries that they would expect to make to the proposed store on Unthank Road, Norwich. We used this figure because, at that stage, Tesco had failed to provide any estimate of the number of deliveries they would require to service the proposed Mill Road store. We would be interested to know why Tesco’s eventual figure for the proposed Mill Road store is significantly lower than the delivery figure for another proposed store of the same size.

Importantly, it should also be noted that our monitoring of the Cherry Hinton Express indicates that the figure given for the Mill Road store is unrealistic – we counted 7 and 5 deliveries on the two days we observed the Cherry Hinton store.

Car Parking

8.20 The application proposes 6 car parking spaces at the rear of the site, one of which would be a disabled space. There are three further car parking spaces in the rear yard of the premises, but those are not part of the application site and are understood to be allocated to the first floor office use.

As indicated above, this is incorrect (our understanding is also that two further spaces are planned, not three). The original application did indeed propose six car parking spaces at the rear of the site – an unacknowledged reduction of at least ten spaces. All but three (the two not counted as part of the application and a disabled parking space) would be lost as a result of the proposed deliveries to the rear of the site; the applicants’ drawing clearly shows that these spaces would be the area into which delivery lorries would reverse. Clearly, this renders them unusable.

8.22 The availability of on-street parking in the vicinity of the appeal site is controlled through a mixture of controlled parking zones, limited waiting bays, double yellow lines and the one-way system. There are a very limited number of waiting parking bays further to the west in the District Centre and the one-way system I consider an active discouragement to trying to park in the side streets. I am therefore of the view that the retention of limited on-site parking is a good thing. Given the view in PPG 13 on the relationship between availability of parking and choice of travel mode, I think it appropriate to assume that the lack of parking would act as a deterrent for car-borne shoppers, dissuading potential customers from considering driving to the site.

As we noted in our comments on the planning officer’s initial report, this is simply not a realistic assumption. As we said in those comments, Shoppers will come by car and then park illegally when they find nowhere to park, or they will cause further congestion by attempting to find parking spaces in the nearby residential streets.

8.24 Objectors have also expressed concern that the small scale of the extension proposed seriously underplays the impact that this development will have and the amount of traffic that would be generated and the serious implications of the proposal for the area. However, what is proposed here is a small extension to serve an existing use, albeit one predicated upon requirements and standards that have long since changed, nationally and locally. Given the proximity to other major retail outlets, I consider it highly likely that the proposed store would attract the bulk of its custom from shoppers who have travelled on foot or by bicycle.

The first part of this paragraph is correct; this is indeed our position. We dispute the assumptions underlying the planning officer’s statements in the second part of the paragraph. In particular even if ‘the bulk’ of shoppers (presumably, anything over 50%) did arrive by car, this would still mean that many did not. Evidence from our monitoring of the Tesco Express in Cherry Hinton and comments from a resident close to the Chesterton Tesco Express both indicate that many shopper will arrive by car.

8.25 As a conclusion I consider that the car parking provision made is adequate and appropriate and that there is a very strong case for keeping on site provision to a minimum, rather than encouraging greater provision.

This is a misleading characterisation. As envisaged under the Tesco application, car parking provision will not be kept to a minimum, it would be entirely removed for all except disabled visitors – assuming that the disabled parking space would be accessible despite its position immediately behind the delivery vehicles servicing the store. Since no-one is suggesting “encouraging greater provision” of car parking to the site (simply objecting to its complete removal) we are not sure of the point of this last observation.

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