Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Mill Road Tesco Moves Closer

Tesco are moving closer to opening a new store on Mill Road. They have submitted an application (ref 08/0794/FUL) for installing refrigeration and plant to the existing building, saying:

"Following refusal for the proposed small single storey rear extension, Tesco now propose to use the existing Class A1 floorspace at the site as their Express store format. To facilitate the efficient and effective use of the site it is necessary to install a small amount of refrigeration and air conditioning equipment"

Without wishing to prejudge the outcome of this application, I think it is fair to say they believe they have more chance of getting this minor application through planning than winning the battle for an extension with the planning inspector, and are looking to open a store as soon as possible even in the smaller existing building...

7 comments:

Ruth said...

Chris, I bet you a can of Tesco value beans that, whatever this new application seems to suggest, Tesco never open a store on Mill Road without the extension (loser gets the beans). They will try to use any approval for the plant as leverage in the appeal or in relation to later applications. A 40% smaller store in this location is just not economically viable, especially since they can't deliver to the site by lorry, and given that there's probably about as much likelihood of them getting an alcohol license in what is now a cumulative impact zone as there is of Terry Leahy rollerskating naked down Mill Road while singing the Internationale.

Chris Howell said...

I've no inside knowledge of Tesco-think, but my take on this latest application is that Tesco isn't at all confident of winning the appeal over the extension - it would be a travesty for local democracy if they did win this appeal based on the local feeling and decision by local Councillors. They certainly aren't putting all their organic free range eggs into one basket, and for better or worse I personally think there will be a Tesco store on Mill Road within a year, but I don't think it would be a good precedent for me to start betting on the outcome of planning applications, even for Tesco value beans!

Ruth said...

Yes, I can see that betting on planning applications might not be a good idea for councillors...

Seriously, though, if they have no extension they will lose about 40% of their retail space. The only Tesco stores that small are in places like Portcullis House (i.e. directly opposite Big Ben) or round the corner from the British Museum. Wonderful though Mill Road is, it doesn't have quite the same footfall as central London's major office districts and tourist sights. So, in the absence of an alcohol licence and with the greatly increased cost of having to make all their deliveries in small vans not large lorries, how is a 40% smaller store going to make enough money? It's not, which is why Tesco's planners told the council planners last autumn that they wouldn't be able to open without the extension. Nothing in the new application (which contains no details at all of the proposed store, and doesn't even include the fabled store plans of CEN legend) suggests that anything has changed.

Nick said...

Chris, I think Tesco have seriously misjudged the people of Cambridge. Local people oppose their Mill Road plans and Hanley Grange eco-town has been exposed as a Tesco-town in disguise. If they persist in this pressure to expand at all costs against the will of local people I wouldn't be surprised if Sainsbury's, Asda, Aldi, Budgens and Waitrose all saw their customer base expand as we take our business away from Tesco. Their arrogance reminds me of the Labour government!

Frugal Dougal said...

During the planning meeting at which Tesco's was refused permission for an extension, I was gobsmacked to hear two councillors say they were members of the Cooperative Party, but that they did not consider this as a prejudicial interest. The Cooperative party maintains strong links to the retail outlet, and in the runup to this meeting the main place to get leaflets for the anti-Tesco's campaign was...Mill Road Co-op.

Chris Howell said...

Interesting comment Frugal Dougal. The Council's planning code of conduct says: "personal interest is classed as “prejudicial” if it is “one which a member of the public with knowledge of the relevant facts would reasonably regard as so significant that it is likely to prejudice the member’s judgement of the public interest.”
I'm guessing the Councillors reasoning is that although the Co-op in Mill Road would benefit from no-Tesco, any resulting impact on members of the Co-operative party making the decision is so small and remote that it wouldn't affect their judgement. Although a personal interest should clearly be declared, in this case I think it is reasonable to conclude it wouldn't be prejudicial.

Ruth said...

Sorry but Frugal Dougal is completely wrong. The Co-op has never been the main place to get leaflets about the anti Tesco campaign. There is no "main place" to get leaflets, but you're much more likely to find leaflets in Hillary's the greengrocers, or Libra Aries Bookshop, or the newsagents or Al-Amin than you are in the Co-op.

If Dougal is trying to suggest that a campaign involving thousands of local people is some kind of Co-op corporate conspiracy then he's barking up the wrong tree. The Co-op have taken no active part whatsoever in the campaign - their manager came to the vote in March, but that's the full extent of their involvement, as far as I know - and they have given no money (or anything else) to the campaign.

At the same East Area Committee, I seem to remember at least one of the voting councillors saying he had a Tesco loyalty card and a non-voting councillor saying that his brother worked for Tesco. At least two fairly active No Mill Road Tesco camapign members are Tesco shareholders, and a lot more have Tesco loyalty cards. If we're going to start dreaming up corporate conspiracies, let's be even handed and add in Tesco. (That's a joke, by the way.)