Newcastle’s MP welcomes refusal of Tesco Trent Vale
The recommendation, by a planning inspector, followed a five-day public enquiry in July at Stoke Civic Centre.
His report, published today, agreed with Paul and Newcastle Borough Council’s arguments that the plans were a risk to the vitality of Newcastle’s town centre, and to Stoke’s own struggling centre as well.
“This is a victory for common sense and the whole planning system,” Paul said.
“There has to be a limit to out-of-town retail development, if our local centres are to have a future. Traders in Newcastle, and Stoke, too, will be delighted at the decision. It shows that is possible if people dig their heels in and say ‘enough is enough’, even though supermarkets are used to getting their way.”
Stoke’s Planning Committee gave the green light to Tesco’s plans last autumn, overturning expert advice from officers and in clear breach of North Staffordshire’s local development plan, on which the town and City had worked for five years.
After lobbying by Paul, Labour’s last cabinet minister for local government, John Denham, decided to ‘call in’ the application and order a public enquiry, taking the decision out of the City Council’s hands.
The enquiry saw Paul and Newcastle’s barrister go head to head with Tesco’s expensive legal team and also Stoke-on-Trent’s, as the City did a somersault and decided to back the supermarket.
Under the plans, Tesco would have increased its total floor space from 5,342 to 9,383 square metres, with a store of stilts selling a much bigger range of non-food items – in a clear threat to small retailers in the two local town centres.
“There were two issues at stake here,” Paul said. “Firstly, the impact of the development and secondly, the principle of sticking with carefully worked out development policies, aimed at revitalising Newcastle and the six Pottery towns.
“Instead, in response to focused lobbying by Tesco, a small number of Stoke-on-Trent councillors ignored expert advice and effectively ripped up local co-operation.’
“That was the saddest part of the whole saga for me. Tesco have six weeks to decide whether to appeal. I hope they will accept the decision, through, with good grace and update their existing store instead, as other supermarkets do up and down the land.
“There’s no need for such a giant development and I’m really glad the planning inspector agreed with our arguments. I also want to thank everyone who supported us at the enquiry, including our Chamber of Trade and Newcastle Civic Society.”
Pictured above: Paul at the existing Tesco store