Tesco Wednesday 6th July 2011

 Babergh District Council Development Committee hear an application by Tesco to build a supermarket just off the Hadleigh High Street. The voting went eight seven in favour of a refusal. Mainly because of local democracy as nine out of ten people do not want the supermarket.

When we look at the voting make up, the pro’s include what I call the payroll vote (the Chair and Vice Chair) who realistically cannot be expected to vote against the Officer’s recommendation. Others include those who are never known to vote against the Officer’s recommendation, those who are so far away that they never visit Hadleigh except for meetings and have very little interest in the outcome (and can’t understand what the fuss is all about) and finally those who are bullied and cowed and frightened of thunder (a.k.a. fear of being on the losing end of an appeal).

The objections ranged over a number of issues and in each case but one we were told that the reasons for declining the application were inappropriate. Consequently the committee was advised that if the application was to be turned down then the only valid reason could be that the design and materials were inappropriate.

The objections and the Council Officer’s rebuttals were as follows: •

  • The Retail Study was flawed to the point of being defective – Retail Studies no longer for part of the planning approval process.
  • The application is not economically appropriate to Hadleigh and experience in other market towns in East Anglia suggests that High Streets die when Tesco opens up.- What happens or does not happen to High Streets are not matters for consideration by the Development Committee
  • Flood – retail usage of flood plain is allowed. The base of the building is to be raised to meet safety requirements – the car park unfortunately will be under water from time to time.
  • Traffic density – not a problem according to Suffolk Highways (see also road safety).
  • Road safety – not a problem according to Suffolk Highways – despite inappropriate splay lines for vehicles entering and egressing the site and every access into the town being single lane at some point
  • Local democracy – despite nine out of ten people not wanting the development – local democracy is not a factor in the planning process.
  • Wrong site – the town is growing towards the north. The development will bring people from the outskirts into the centre of the town. The site is designated for retail development and that is that!

And so it goes on until the only valid reason for refusal is that we do not like the design. The developer was allowed five minutes to make his presentation, objectors and supporters were restricted to three persons and three minutes each. As a ward member I had unlimited time (subject to the maxim “the brain can only absorb what the backside can endure!”. So I had the time (about twelve minutes) to develop ideas and themes, (The problems with the three/five minute restriction is that there is a tendency to cram information into the time available rather than as Cicero’s wife advised – “make a shorter speech!).

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