It’s looking increasingly likely that Tesco is going to get the go ahead for its new store in Beeston – despite Council research appearing to indicate that there’s no need for more convenience goods retail outlets in the area.
Leeds Council’s Plans Panel (East) is going to discuss the supermarket giant’s planning application for the store at the junction of Moorhouse Avenue and Old Lane on Thursday 8th September, and hear a report from the Council’s Chief Planning Officer recommending that the application be granted.
There’s been much of the usual argy-bargy that surrounds new stores proposed by Tesco: standard letters of support apparently provided by Tesco for local residents to fill in, a ‘no’ from Leeds Civic Trust and obligatory yelps from other retailers (Morrison’s, The Coop) who are inevitably going to see their trade decrease.
What’s unusual about this application is that one of the objectors, the Co-op, is using the Council’s own research into local retail needs as a stick to beat the Council with.
The research – into the current and future capacity for retail in the City – was commissioned by the Council, carried out by Colliers International and published in July. The Council needed evidence on which to base its development plans and planning policy, and the research provided it.
Sounds like the kind of evidence that would be really useful in a planning application like this one, you might think.
No need for more stores
The trouble is that the Colliers research makes it clear that there’s going to be no need for any more convenience goods retail outlets in the area where it’s planned to build the Tesco store – the Inner South (City Centre) zone. No need, that is, up to and including 2026.
The Coop have latched on to this element of the Colliers report findings and, naturally enough, pointed it out to the Council in its objection to the application.
The Council has admitted that “in theory” the overcapacity in the zone would not “ordinarily” support the case for a new store, but…but…to tell you the truth the Council’s “but” is a bit opaque so I’ll give it to you in full to see if you can make head or tail of it. Here’s what they say:
“…it must be noted that the Inner South Zone of the study is not a direct fit with the Primary Catchment Area for the assessment of this application and is statistically impacted upon by the inclusion of City Centre within the Inner South Zone, particularly, Kirkgate market.
“It is considered that the Town Centres Study is of a strategic nature and as the city centre is within the same study zone but not the agreed catchment area of of the proposed store the information cannot be relied upon to assess this application.
“For the scale of the store proposed, which is designed to cater for a 5 minute drive time catchment area, it is more appropriate to assess retail capacity on a more local basis as has been done as part of the applicant’s Retail Assessment…
“…The Colliers report itself has limited status in planning terms, but is capable of being a material planning consideration.”
So, there you go. The research the Council has commissioned (and spent God knows how much cash on) on local retail needs is, erm, strategic and of absolutely no use when it comes to helping to decide on a retail planning application. So they’re going with Tesco’s own more local assessment. Brilliant. You couldn’t make it up.
The Coop, understandably, are very miffed. In a letter sent on 31st August to the Council’s Chief Planning Officer, Martha Hughes, they insist that, however you look at it (and the way Tesco look at it in particular), the area involved has got more than enough retail provision already.
“We consider that this application simply cannot reasonably or robustly be determined until planning policy officers…provide on record a transparent and rational basis to determine the application objectively and on a sound judgement,” the Coop says.
It’ll be interesting to see what happens next Thursday.