Hadleigh: Babergh responds to QC’s Tesco report

Tesco Hadleigh

Tesco Hadleigh - Credit: Archant

THE recent opening of a Morrisons supermarket in Hadleigh will be taken into account when plans for a new Tesco are considered, a council planning chief has confirmed.

A protest march against the Hadleigh Tesco

A protest march against the Hadleigh Tesco

A legal report by a top QC questioning the validity of a proposal to build a Tesco on the former Brett Works was delivered to Babergh District Council last week.

In the report, commissioned by protest group Hands Off Hadleigh, former MP Paul Stinchcombe QC stated that the council’s local plan, which earmarked the Brett Works site for retail development, was “out of date”.

He said: “The council is in danger of acting unlawfully in its consideration of the planning application through failing properly to apply paragraph 14 of the Government’s National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) in respect of a Local Plan, which the council has independently been advised is now rendered ‘out-of-date’ with regards to the application site, by reason of the recent development of the Morrison’s food store.”

In 2011, councillors were advised they could not throw out a previous Tesco application because of traffic, access, and trading issues as these were not considered valid planning reasons for refusal. In the end, it was rejected on ‘design’ grounds.

Last night Babergh’s corporate manager for development services, Christine Thurlow told the EADT that while the local plan as a whole continued to lawfully apply to new development proposals, committee members would have to consider the weight that could be given to each individual policy within the plan, and take into account its conformity with policies set out in NPPF.

She said: “The opening of a Morrisons store in a converted shop is a material change in circumstances and will need to be taken into account in the weighting exercise for the policy which allocated Brett Works for a new food supermarket.

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“(In 2011) members were not told they couldn’t refuse on any grounds other than design but were advised there was no evidence available to support some of the concerns that arose during their debate.

“Members will (now) be advised of the weight they can attribute to relevant Local Plan policies and the proposal will also be assessed against the provisions of the NPPF. Members will be made aware of all relevant issues.”

Hands Off Hadleigh has also claimed Babergh officers were keen to see the Tesco deal secured because the company could provide around £750,000 as part of a planning contribution.

But Ms Thurlow continued: “Any contributions secured via a section 106 agreement and taken into account during the decision making process can only serve to mitigate the impact and potential negative effects of the development being proposed.

“The process is strictly controlled by regulation and contributions are secured on the strength of evidence and cannot be offered as an incentive to grant planning permission for development.”

At an annual town meeting in Hadleigh, chamber of commerce president Tony Addison said some High Street retailers had seen a sustained 30% drop in footfall since Morrisons opened in January. The chamber has commissioned a retail impact assessment due to be published later this week which challenges Tesco’s application. Mr Addison said: “If a Tesco were to go ahead, £60million would be taken out of the local economy every year and with a catchment area of about 27,000 we simply cannot support another supermarket of this size.”

A Tesco spokesman said he believed their store would encourage shoppers back into the town centre. He added: “There is no doubt that our hugely popular scheme will be a shot in the arm for Hadleigh and local traders. The Council’s own independent retail consultants believe our store will not have a negative impact on the vitality of the town.”