Contributed by Mr Ron Redgewell
As we go to press, the Public Inquiry is taking place into Tesco’s planning application to nearly double the size of its store in Trent Vale. Fellow member, Paul Farrelly, MP, succeeded in convincing the Secretary of State to ‘call in’ Stoke-on-Trent Council’s decision to approve the application, thus enabling a Planning Inspector to review the case and make recommendations to the Minister on the application. The enquiry was held over five days in the Stoke-on-Trent Council Chamber. In advance of the enquiry the Secretary submitted the following to the Inspector in the context of a ‘letter of objection’ to the store’s enlargement on behalf of the Society.
The intention is to change the store from a traditional, predominately grocery supermarket, to what is in effect a ‘department’ store. The intention being to move into the non-food market where the profit margins are higher by taking trade away from the Newcastle Town Centre.
Background to this application is one where the Stoke-on-Trent City Council, Planning Development Committee approved the application by the narrowest of margins, 5-4. This approval was against advice from City Council officers and specialist retail consultants, against the views of the local North Staffordshire Regeneration Partnership and counter to representations by Newcastle-under-Lyme Borough Council and the advice of its officers.
Recent legislation, “impact test”: we understand the legislation that came into force in the Spring means that developments such as that proposed by Tesco at Trent Vale must pass an “impact test”, to show that a new store or extension responds to unmet demand without harming consumer choice, the local High Streets and environmental concerns. We are aware that Tesco plc, made some 28 planning applications in the period prior to the new legislation coming into force, in the full knowledge that many of these applications would fail the “test”!
We strongly feel that this application fails the “test”:
(1) As it will draw non-food trade away from local high streets.
(2) Create a demand for more traffic movement, as there is not a public transport hub nearby, as is the case with Town Centre, High Street and Stoke.
(3) It will severely disadvantage the elderly and disabled through lack of public transport.
(4) There has been little or no reliable evidence that there is a strong demand from the public for this development.