Six Months After Planning Consent TESCO Moves The Goalposts

Six months ago the Multinational Megastore Tesco was granted planning permission to build on the green open space yards from peoples homes around the Brewery Field in Westover ward. People were incensed then and opposed it, yet the Planning committee approved it whilst laying down some firm conditions to limit noise nuisance. Six months later and Tesco are back again to vary, amend or delete some of those conditions and extend their opening hours from 7am to 6am. Again local people were angry and opposed this, backed by their local ward councillors. Again, Sedgemoor officers recommended supporting Tesco.

At the Development Control committee today, October 1st, Ward councillors Brian Smedley and Kathy Pearce joined residents spokesman Nick Gibson and Bridgwater Town Clerk Alan Hurford in appealing to the Planning committee not to give way again and to insist that their original conditions be met.

Brian Smedley urges Sedgemoor to stand by their earlier conditions
Cllr Brian Smedley
Cllr Brian Smedley

Cllr Brian Smedley said, “The planning agreement was made in the face of massive opposition from local residents and the wider townsfolk but was passed by this committee who in doing so set conditions. It is uncomfortably soon after those conditions were imposed that Tesco – the corporate multinational food giant which some may say destroys rather than enhance town centres, are already asking you to change those conditions. I fully support residents in their opposition to this. The report today says “The four conditions, all relate to store deliveries and the associated control of noise and the committees reasons for each of these conditions is the same “ – their purpose “To safeguard local residents from noise and disturbance” . To amend planning conditions 10, 12, 13 & 18 is therefore not appropriate. The conditions were imposed for a reason which presumably you were convinced of and believed in as being ‘appropriate’. Rolling over only a few months after imposing these conditions could simply be seen as SDC bowing to corporate pressure and does not send a message that would be received very well here and by future victims of such developments. The amendments proposed by Tesco are simply their way of getting what they originally wanted heavy footstep by heavy footstep and sedgemoor must not collude in this. Obviously, Tesco should be held to the original conditions. If they were good enough at the time of the original application then what has changed in the past few months.??  It should be noted that the planning officers response “it is not considered that the proposed changes will lead to any significant change in impact arising from the store.” Is a tantamount admission that the committees original decision to grant permission in February is such a gross intrusion into the lives and well being of residents that the maximum damage has already been done – however, this committee has the chance today to refute that ‘fatalistic’ approach.”

Kathy Pearce breaks down the Tesco case
Cllr Kathy Pearce
Cllr Kathy Pearce

Cllr Kathy Pearce said, “I am here to ask that you do not agree to the amendments contained within the report and to support local residents in their objections, some of which will literally live yards from this delivery yard. Taking the conditions one by one:

Condition 10: To remove the safeguards around noise levels based on such flimsy assurance as contained within the report is just unacceptable. Page 3 of the report states “assuming the store operates normally it should not give rise to noise problems …..” We cannot make any assumptions at this stage. The draft Service Management Plan on which we are supposed to base our confidence is littered with words such as “should”, “could”, “may” and “it is not currently possible to be specific”. How can we possibly have confidence? It is not right to agree to these proposals based on the store’s and local authority’s complaints procedures after the damage it done. You have the gift to impose protection for local residents to ensure that they do not have cause to complain in the first place.

Condition 12: I believe that the proposal to allow deliveries to start at 6 rather than 7 is unnecessary whilst causing significant detriment to nearby residents. With careful management, surely Tesco can ensure that it has all the stocks it needs within the original hours of delivery. With millions of pounds worth of food being wasted every year, I find it hard to accept or understand why deliveries need to be extended, with lorries trundling by residents doorsteps at 6am.

Condition 13: So not only do residents have to suffer deliveries from 6am but is Tesco proposing that it is ok for them to have to endure reversing alarms potentially throughout the night, regardless of tone? I ask the committee to remember that this is not some out of town shopping centre, this store is extremely close to homes.

Condition 18: I believe that Tesco should be held to their original obligation. If they believed it could be achieved at the time of the original application, I fail to understand what has changed.

In summary, I believe these proposals present a gradual erosion of the nearby residents’ quality of life and well-being. I ask the committee to really consider what it will be like to live next to this development and not allow this company to trample all over their future well-being in order to get a few more burgers on the shelves.”

Residents spokesman calls for all information to be made available
Nick Gibson
Nick Gibson

Nick Gibson criticised Sedgemoor planners for treating the residential area “like an industrial estate” and asked why the report submitted by Noise Consultants Curloads, which blew apart the Tesco case, had not been made available to members.”What about the Curload report? Surely unless all committee members are fully aware of the report undertaken by Curload then they will not have a balanced view of the issue. If that is the case the application at the very least should be deferred while copies of the Curload report are circulated directly to all Members of the Committee, and to ask Curload to comment on the Environmental Health team’s comments , the content of the report to Committee, and even to ask Curload to attend Committee to present their findings.”

Town Clerk Alan Hurford stated the Town Council’s opposition to the original planning decision and to any weakening of the conditions as granted as part of that decision.

Tesco was represented by Gareth Hooper who claimed the conditions were tough and that they just needed the extra hour for deliveries to get fresh food into the store.

Tesco – Every vote helps

The committee then debated the issues, largely dividing on party lines with Labour and Independent members arguing to reject Tesco amendments and Tories arguing to support. In the end they had swayed only one Tory (Councillor Grimes) and Tesco again won the day 8 votes to 5.