After a year of battling it out locally on the PR front, supermarket giants Asda and Tesco go head to head next week when their rival planning applications for stores in Beeston go before a Leeds City Council plans panel.
And if councillors on the panel follow the advice of planning officers, neither of the two proposals – Asda’s for a new bigger store on its current Old Lane site and Tesco’s for a new supermarket on a neighbouring site – will get the go-ahead.
Reports prepared by planning officers for a meeting next Thursday (8th November) of the council’s plans panel for the south and west of the city admit that both applications have the support of local communities, and both would bring jobs and wider economic benefits to the area.
But both, the reports note, would damage the chances of nearby Dewsbury Road attracting a similar supermarket and could also result in the decline of existing stores elsewhere in Beeston (on Town St and the Tommy Wass crossroads) and of small-scale convenience stores in the area.
The Post Office has also raised concerns that a duplication of services from either of the supermarkets would potentially reduce its business.
“Downward spiral” of Dewsbury Road
The big sticking point for both applications in planning officers’ eyes is the likely impact on the northern end of Dewsbury Road – an area officially designated as a “town centre” in the council’s plans – and to a lesser extent on Holbeck.
“Dewsbury Road is acknowledged to be a town centre that is poorly performing in terms of its provision and that it lacks the large anchor store that could stimulate further commercial and retail provision,” say the reports, which in their key findings are worded identically for both the Asda and Tesco proposals.
“A new food store operator in or close to that centre could stimulate jobs, income and visual enhancements that could kick start regeneration of the wider area. Without this it is likely that Dewsbury Road will continue in its downward spiral with potential for further economic loss,” they say.
The Old Lane sites where both Asda and Tesco want to build are designated as “out of centre” sites. For such sites to be accepted for a supermarket, the applicant has to prove there isn’t a more suitable site in a nearby area that’s higher up the council’s development pecking order.
Both firms say they’ve looked and found nothing suitable. The council’s planners say they haven’t looked hard enough.
“It is not considered in this case that the applicants have adequately demonstrated flexibility in their business model, or put forward enough justification to fully discount other sequentially preferable sites, particularly in the Dewsbury Road area given the primacy of this area in the retail hierarchy.
“For example there are large areas of industrial development very close to the Dewsbury Road town centre but there is no assessment of whether any of these areas are available, viable or suitable.”
Conflict with policy
In conclusion, both reports note:
“… this is a town centre use being proposed in an out of centre location and it is likely to detrimentally impact on the ability of Dewsbury Road, and potentially also Holbeck, to provide retail and economic vitality for their respective areas.
“This would effectively go against policy in both the UDPR (framework development plan) and the draft Core Strategy which seeks to promote Dewsbury Road as a town centre and to bring about opportunities for growth to take place here.
“Given this conflict with policy and the potential disbenefits, it is not considered that the proposal can be considered to represent sustainable development and is therefore recommended for refusal.”