Tesco Town : Electric Democracy

My, my, what a splendidly entertaining and lively Planning Committee meeting was held at the Walthamstow Town Hall yesterday evening.

The juggernaut of Tesco met the clamouring masses of the people of Hale End and Highams Park head on, and it wasn’t a walkover.

Six people from the ranks of the citizens spoke at the meeting, for a sum total of three minutes each.

The Planning Committee questioned the report prepared for them by their Officers, and voted to defer the decision on the Planning Application until such time as more and better information had been provided, including an alternative plan for a smaller development.

There was much applause. Democracy and common sense were much in evidence.

We may have won the skirmish, but we might lose the whole war : Tesco will probably appeal and get their way with this completely inappropriate plan.

But at least we put up a (peaceful) fight.

Plus, we learned a little about how to work together as a community, and that’s probably the best thing that has come out of this sorry mess.

Here is what I had to say :-


Highams Park Residents Association (HPRA)
Presentation to the Planning Committee of Waltham Forest
8th September 2009

Thank you, Chair.

We would like to draw the Committee’s attention to 4 areas of SUSTAINABILITY in regards to the Planning Applications from Tesco Spenhill.

1. SUSTAINABILITY OF THE TESCO STORE

The 2008 Mintel Retail Ranking says Tesco turns over £13,094 per square metre, so the planned 3,111 square metres would turnover £40.74 million, most of the surplus cash in the whole Borough.

The Updated Retail Assessment of 2006 indicates there could be scope for an extra 600 square metres of non-food retail in Neighbourhood Centres. The Planning Committee report says non-food in the new Tesco would turnover £7.57 million, almost this floor size.

HPRA think it’s risky to have a very high proportion of both kinds of new retail in the Borough being conducted from a single store in Highams Park. We think the extra traffic and congestion would pretty soon put people off coming to the store.

Plus, since the Credit Crunch has really started to bite, we know that people have less spare cash.

We think that Tesco have not taken into account the coming Carbon pricing, which will push up utility bills.

All of these factors would impact profitability and sustainability of the store.

HPRA feel that the size of the planned Tesco store is too large to be sustainable, and we request a revised retail assessment, in line with current economic conditions.


2. SUSTAINABILITY OF THE LOCAL ECONOMY

The Competition Commission has indicated that choice should be provided by different retailers and not within one large supermarket.

The revisions to the national PPS6 policy indicates that a robust economic “impact test” should be conducted for larger developments.

We shouldn’t be hearing speculation and supposition on this.

Other Tesco developments show that shops around the supermarkets go out of business, as Tesco dominates every market it enters.

[Unscripted applause]

Our Sustainable Communities Strategy aims to “retain more wealth in the Borough” and “Create vibrant town centres”. Both of these are threatened by the Tesco development.

The planning application states that there will be more business for local shops. Experience from other towns shows that this is just not the case.

We request that the Council enforces restrictions against certain types of goods being sold in Tesco, so as to protect local businesses and livelihoods.

We also request that the plan is reviewed as the proposed large store size would make it an unfair competitor in the area.


3. SUSTAINABILITY OF THE LOCAL COMMUNITY

HPRA feel the large number of proposed houses and flats will be detrimental.

The local population would increase by roughly 10%, not easy to absorb, even with a new health centre.

Popular local schools in Highams Park are full and have long waiting lists.

Over-crowded train services, Heavy Goods Vehicles passage, and the congestion from traffic held up by the level crossing, would only be exacerbated by this development.

HPRA do not think it is a good idea to build roughly 40% of the new housing that the Borough needs in just one place.

[Unscripted applause]

We request the Council demand a reduction in the number of residential units in the plan to lessen the social impact. We suggest a full assessment of how local services will be augmented.


4. SUSTAINABILITY OF THE ENVIRONMENT

The plan complies with national and local government guidance on Renewable Energy, but any new development will create new Carbon Emissions, and supermarkets are known for being energy monsters.

The national Climate Change Bill, the London Plan and the Local Authority Climate Change Strategy all say we should be reducing our Carbon Emissions.

We want this plan from Tesco to be revised to be a Zero Carbon store.

IN SUMMARY

Our request is that this plan is massively downscaled, in terms of store size, housing density and energy use.

[Unscripted applause]


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