Sunday 9 August 2009

St Albans 'Emerging Core Strategy' Says No To London Road Tesco

A few months ago, local people were asked for their thoughts on the future of development in St Albans. Well, the results are in and there is a lot of good news for us.

The report, 'Emerging Core Strategy 2009' (formerly known as St Albans City Vision in earlier posts...), recommends that London Road would not be a good site for a supermarket, suggesting instead that it should be used for residential housing or a primary school. The report also states that 'considerable opposition was generated over the possible new food store locations and some respondents questioned the need for another store' - thanks for your comments.

The full report can be found here. Thanks again to Ian for finding this for us! Please leave your comments as well in support of these changes!

UPDATE: Thanks to the St Albans Review for this great article on the topic!

Saturday 18 July 2009

Positive News on Competition Commission Ruling

Vanessa emails us (thanks) to let us know of the latest developments in Tesco's battle with the Competition Commission. Following Tesco's successful appeal against the Commission's findings that too many Tesco supermarkets in the same town might not be a good thing for shoppers, it looks likely that the Competition Commission will be able to impose its rules. Good news for cities with lots of Tesco stores (although it won't affect St Albans!).

The details are below...

The competition test for grocery retailers would bring lasting benefits for consumers, the Competition Commission (CC) has provisionally concluded in a report today.

The commission has been carrying out further analysis on the benefits and costs of the test as ordered by the Competition Appeal Tribunal (CAT) after Tesco successfully appealed over the proposal in March this year.

The test would block supermarket developments by retailers already powerful in a local area to make room for competing stores from rival retailers.

Peter Freeman, Chairman of the CC and Chairman of the Groceries Inquiry Group, said: "What we were asked to do by the tribunal was to prove the case for the competition test and show that it would have the intended effect — to help bring in competition where it is lacking and to stop individual retailers consolidating their position in local areas to the detriment of consumers.

"Our detailed analysis has shown that the test is likely to have a positive effect over time for consumers by ensuring that they benefit from greater competition and choice between retailers in their local areas," he said.

The commission's report into the UK groceries market, published in April 2008, concluded that action was needed to improve competition in a number of local markets, and so included a recommendation for the inclusion of a competition test in planning decisions on larger grocery stores.

But Tesco appealed to the CAT, which ruled that the commission had not properly assessed the economic costs of the test, and that it had failed sufficiently to address its proportionality and effectiveness.

The tribunal did not dispute the justification for the test itself and remitted the matter back to the commission for further consideration.

The commission's latest analysis estimated the benefits to consumers that would result from increased competition, with retailers already powerful in a local area no longer being able to shut out rivals from those areas and with the test also stopping areas from being dominated by individual retailers in the first place.

The analysis compared these benefits against the costs from any delay between a dominant retailer’s development being blocked and a rival’s alternative taking its place. It concluded that over the longer term, the benefits to consumers would outweigh any such initial costs.

The CC is now inviting responses to the provisional decision by 29 July, and will assess these before publishing its final decision by 5 October.

For further details on the Groceries report, see:

Friday 17 July 2009

More Articles on the Squatters

Many thanks to the local press for following up the issues of squatters in Inkerman Road. Mary Brosnan wrote an article in the Herts Advertiser (which does not seem to be available online), while St Albans Review Editor Martin Buhagiar hits the nail on the head with this editorial.

The Herts Advertiser article does contain a comment from Tesco's agency, Verulam Homes, that building work in Inkerman Road was due to start in three months. While we welcome any sign of a commitment from Tesco to bring its houses back into use, we are getting used to vague promises - remember when Tesco promised to let the London Road houses by Christmas?

Local councillor Michael Green has also contacted us to say that he is pursuing the issue with St Albans District Council.

Tuesday 14 July 2009

Squatter Update...

Thanks to Alex Barham for this article in the St Albans Review today. She has interviewed a number of Inkerman Road residents and got to the bottom of the problem with the Tesco-owned houses. We await with interest any response from Tesco...

Of course this is not the first link between Tesco and squatters here. In October last year, Tesco admitted that squatters were living in its London Road houses.

Friday 10 July 2009

Squatters in Inkerman Road Tesco Properties!

Local resident Caroline emails to tell us that squatters have taken over one of the Tesco houses, 25 Inkerman Road. They have posted up the notice pictured left, setting out their rights. The notice is dated 29/6/09.

25 Inkerman Road is one of several local houses that Tesco owns - the house next door is boarded up (see the photo below), as are many houses on London Road - where despite Tesco obtaining planning permission to make them usable for housing, no work appears to have started.

Stop Tesco believes that given the desperate need for housing in the St Albans area, Tesco must put these houses back into use NOW.

Of course, if this is another Tesco strategy to let the potential site for a store decay even further in the hope that local people come around to its opinion, we are pretty sure that the people of St Albans are not that stupid!

Tesco houses in Inkerman Road that are not available for housing (squatted house in the foreground, boarded up house in the background).

PS - another local resident, Deric, has emailed us to say...

'Saturday saw an ambulance called out to attend to a very bloody head injury and the street now has a constant stream of people shouting and drinking in the street. The police were also in attendance over the weekend. If anyone can help / advise on this issue please let me know, I am trying to speak to Tesco which is proving not too easy.' We have passed his comments to local councillors and journalists.

Please let us know (via or by posting a comment) if you live in Inkerman Road and have news about the squatters or related activity in the area.

Thursday 9 April 2009

Planning Permission for London Road houses

The Herts Advertiser reports that Tesco has finally asked for planning permission to do up the dilapidated houses on London Road. St Albans Councillor Chris Brazier himself makes the point that it is now three years since Tesco first promised to do something to the houses. We'd also like to put our skeptical hats on and point out that applying for planning permission doesn't mean that the houses will be put back into use tomorrow! Indeed, we would ask why Tesco needs planning permission for perfectly useable houses.

Still, every little helps, as the saying goes.

Friday 3 April 2009

Local parents group suggests using Tesco site for a school - can you help?

We're in the middle of a very quiet phase of Stop Tesco activity. Since its application was rejected last year, Tesco has not come forward with any more ideas for using the former Eversheds site, although we are continuing to press them and St Albans District Council to act on the London Road houses.

However, many people did say during the campaign that a primary school would be an excellent use for the site, given the lack of them in the centre of the city. We thought that many of you might be interested in supporting SABLE - a local parents group that is lobbying hard on the primary schools issue and has a similar vision for the Tesco site. The group is currently raising awareness, looking for members and has started a petition aimed at Herts County Council.

You can find more about the group in this article in the Herts Advertiser. If you support the group you can sign up to their online petition here.

Monday 23 February 2009

Letters of Sense?

Two letters in the Herts Advertiser this week seek to keep the Tesco debate open (the question does arise if it is possible to have a debate if Tesco isn't speaking though...)

Peter Milne returns to the problems of the London Road houses. His impressive chronology covers the past 3-and-a-half years and shows how little action has been taken by Tesco or St Albans District to solve the problem.

Simon Hepburn
joins together a couple of stories to make the case for a school on the London Road site.

Another interesting article that local planners and followers of this site might be interested was posted on the BBC website today. A coalition of councils, unions and builders is pressing the Government to put up 100,000 affordable homes. Another perfect use for the site!

UPDATE: Peter Milne has written the letter below to Cllr Chris Brazier, in response to this article in the online Herts Advertiser. We'll let you know what he says...

Dear Chris,

I've just read the Herts Ad article in which you are quoted as saying

"I had a meeting with Tesco before Christmas and they stated they would tidy up the properties. They have put a caretaker in the site to stop people squatting. They told me that any new application would not include the houses in London Road."

He gave them a two-month deadline to submit an application to refurbish the properties and warned them that the council would use the Housing Act to force them into selling the properties for housing if they failed to do so. "

As the meeting was in September, five months later, I'm wondering what's happening. There seems to be no planning application from Tesco as they are reported to have promised, no EHMO - and most important, still no work on the houses.

There has been a long series of failed promises on this since 2005, as below. Is something actually going to happen soon?

Peter Milne

Sept 16 2005 - The council says it is looking to use an amendment to the Housing Act which comes into force this autumn allowing it to manage [the London Road houses] with a view to providing accommodation for tenants on the housing register.

Jan 5th 2006 - A council spokesman said: "There are two areas we are exploring. Under section 215 of the Town and Country Planning Act we can make efforts to tidy up the appearance of the area..... Councillor Robert Donald has also written to Verulam Properties a subsidiary of Tesco which owns the properties to request that action is taken to improve their appearance."

Jun 19 2006 - Council leader Robert Donald has pledged to take action over the empty homes and shops in London Road if the stymied supermarket scheme does not progress this year.

Oct 15th 2007 - .... district council planning chief Chris Brazier .... is asking council officers to use the 2004 Housing Act to take over the properties temporarily.

Feb 19th 2008 - [Tesco] says it will renovate six of the homes it owns in May or June, and all should be occupied by tenants by the end of this year.

Aug 27th 2008 - Daniel Goodwin, the council's chief executive, says "The council wishes to see the houses in london Road let as soon as possible." and that they will consider using an Empty Dwelling Management Order "should insufficient steps have been taken".

Friday 9 January 2009

Use Woolies for Tesco?

There were a number of interesting letters in the Herts Advertiser today. James Craigen's letter asks why not use the now-closed Woolworths for the supermarket that Tesco and St Albans District Council both claim is needed for St Albans?

We think this is an excellent idea - a new supermarket in the centre of the City would be highly accessible by public transport and would encourage people to make more trips into the City centre and so support other shops and the market in the downturn. Woolworths already sells food and has extensive delivery facilities, so shouldn't be too hard to adapt as a supermarket. It would be many times better for the environment and the economy than Tesco's current plans.

Perhaps the only problem with James' idea is that Tesco already has a Metro store nearby. But there are many other food retailers who should jump at the opportunity - or perhaps Tesco could just re-locate into the larger premises?

Thanks also to Eleanor Smith for setting the record straight in response to a letter from Harpenden resident Brian Turberville. As she points out, Stop Tesco does want to make positive changes to the former Eversheds site - and the organisation that is wholly responsible for the state of the site is Tesco.

Finally, Michael Weaver considers the retailing issues for St Albans and Harpenden and concludes that,

'A Tesco development down London Road is definitely not the answer and could be a disaster for The Maltings and St Peters Street. It is far too far from the city centre and leaves a large undeveloped gap between St Peters Street and Tesco's development. It would also present massive traffic problems. In any case it is a one-stop shop and away experience.'

Thanks to you all!

UPDATE: The BBC reports that Iceland has bought a number of Woolworth stores. While St Albans is not in this list, it seems to show that many Woolies stores do have futures as food shops.

Monday 22 December 2008

Homelessness at Christmas

Season's Greeetings to you all!

The issue of homelessness is one that comes up regularly at Christmas. This BBC article reports a study by the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors that shows over 760,000 houses are empty across the UK - while about 10% of that number of people are homeless or in temporary accommodation.

We know that Tesco's houses in London Road and Inkerman Road are contributing to this number of empty properties (and there may be a lot more in Tesco landbanks around the country, unfortunately). Remember Tesco promised in February to 'renovate six of the homes it owns in May or June, and all should be occupied by tenants by the end of this year.'

Obviously this has not happened.

You may ask how this fits with Tesco's pledge to 'be a good neighbour and run a business that is responsible, honest and fair'? Tesco must sort its act out quickly - and we need to keep urging St Albans District Council to make sure that it keeps its promises.

If you would like to help homeless people this Christmas, here's a link to Shelter's Christmas campaign!

Sunday 21 December 2008

Tesco Apologises for Three Year Delay (but not here!)

The Manchester Evening News has a story that should be a warning to anyone who thinks Tesco is really interested in communities! In the story Tesco's man in St Albans Nick Gellatly apologises for a massive delay in building a new GP surgery next to a new supermarket. The promised surgery was apparently a major factor in gaining local support for Tesco.

The medical practice manager is quoted as saying,

"The job was supposed to take only six months but not a spade has been lifted. We can't spend any money on improving the surgery, which is in an antiquated house, because we are waiting for the new building."

So, a couple of lessons here - Tesco shows again that it can't stick to timetables, and it also shows that we need to be very careful about any promised 'community' benefits that might be used to swing support behind a new supermarket!

Tuesday 16 December 2008

Anne Main MP Makes A Statement

Our MP, Anne Main, issued the following statement today... we do like the phrase 'living under a Tesco cloud'!

“Whilst it is good news that Tesco has decided to rule out going down the potentially expensive route of appealing the Council’s decision on its plans, many of us had hoped that the refusal would mark the end of Tesco’s involvement in this location, and that other uses could now be considered for the former Eversheds site.

"I hope that the Council will refuse any new proposal which is not appropriate as an unsuitable development here could have damaging implications both in terms of its impact on the conservation area and on pollution in the vicinity. For years, St Albans has been blighted by this scruffy development site. This problem must be sorted.

"On a positive note, I welcome the news that some action will finally be taken to redevelop the properties owned by Tesco on London Road as these have been left empty for too long. A similar scheme for the properties in Inkerman Road needs to follow as residents there are living under a Tesco cloud which is very damaging.”

There's No Appeal, but Tesco Isn't Going Away!

Mixed news from the Herts Advertiser today. The paper has finally got an admission from Tesco's Nick Gellatly that Tesco will not be appealing against the council's rejection of its inital plans. This must come as a relief to councillors who will not be faced with funding an appeal. It presumably also reflects the fact that Tesco would find it very difficult to overturn such a comprehensive rejection.

However, we're not finished yet. Mr Gellatly then talks about 'initial proposals for a new scheme which is expected to be ready early in 2009', justifying his comments by claiming that there 'is a huge amount of support for a new supermarket close to the city centre'.

At this point we'd really urge Tesco not to waste its time and money going through the processes of 'consultation' exercises only to produce another unwanted plan - the people of St Albans made it quite clear last year that they don't want a supermarket on this site - they want housing and a school. If there is clear need for a supermarket, it is obvious that one should be built right in the City Centre, where it would be accessible by public transport and not drag people away from the centre.

Finally, Mr Gellatly tries to use recent changes in economic circumstances to try to justify his position, claiming that the store would be 'boost for the city in terms of new jobs'. We know this is getting a bit repetitive, but research shows that new supermarkets COST jobs (that's where Tesco's profits come from) and we know that these jobs would be lost from the City Centre retail area.

PS - our spellchecker keeps wanting to replace Gellatly with 'Flagellate' - then again, being a bit of a masochist could be seen as an essential quality for being Tesco's PR man in St Albans!

Thursday 13 November 2008

More Good News from Cambridge

Regular readers will recall that Tesco has been facing a massive amount of opposition to plans to open a store in Mill Road Cambridge. We've had another update from Ruth of the No Mill Road Tesco campaign with some excellent news. She writes...

'We thought you'd like to know that the planning inspector has dismissed Tesco's appeal against Cambridge council's refusal of an extension and plant back in March. He has dismissed it on the grounds that "both of the realistically available servicing options would pose unacceptable risks to highway safety".

This is excellent news because it means that even if Tesco go ahead with their next appeal, against another refusal (for plant only) in July, they will still have this same problem. We don't want to get carried away, but it's hard to see how Tesco can now open a store on this site. Even the local paper's editorial today described Tesco's attempt to open up on Mill Road as "doomed". So, there are lots of happy people in Cambridge today!'

Congratulations from us all!

Wednesday 12 November 2008

Tesco Appeals in Hertfordshire (in Hertford not St Albans!)

The Hertfordshire Mercury reports that Tesco is appealing to the Planning Inspectorate over its plans to double its store in Hertford. Our new friend Nick Gellatly is quoted - regular readers of this blog can probably already imagine the spin he's putting on a very unpopular plan!

(PS Nick - any plans for St Albans? You've only a month or so to appeal here.)

Friday 24 October 2008

Devon Knows Why Tesco Has Been Rejected Again...

Another blow to Tesco! Devon24 reports that Tesco has been refused permission to extend a store in Exmouth. One of the reasons apparently was the 'potential to damage the town centre'.

(PS - the article once again repeats Tesco's claim that a new supermarket creates jobs. We've pointed out many times that research shows that hiring people to work in a supermarket does not do this - it displaces existing jobs and ends up reducing local employment. Just think about it - if Tesco were right, we could solve UK unemployment tomorrow just by building 10,000 new supermarkets and there would be no need for schools, universities and so on!)

Friday 17 October 2008

Bridlington Says No To Tesco To Save Shops

This article from the Bridlington Free Press reports yet another case where the likely damage to local business has led a council to reject a Tesco store. It reports a local shopkeeper as saying,

"If Tesco had come in, it would have led to job losses and shops closing. In some way it would have affected not just us, but the greengrocers, the bakers, the newsagents".

Exactly what we fear in St Albans!

PS - it's nearly 4 months since the Tesco application was rejected - what is Tesco up to????

Wednesday 1 October 2008

Tesco, Squatters and More Spin...

In an article in today's St Albans Review, Tesco admits that its London Road houses are being lived in by squatters - and then tries to squirm out of the problem.

Rather than a comment from Nick Gellatly (gone already?), Tesco wheel out spin-doctor Eben Black, Head of Media (Global Government Relations) (wow!) at consultants DLA Piper to try to solve the problem. Eben tells the newspaper that Tesco cannot do anything without planning permission.

Hang on a minute! Didn't Tesco say in February that 'it will renovate six of the homes it owns in May or June, and all should be occupied by tenants by the end of this year.' No mention of it needing planning permission then.

Councillor Robert Donald also picked up on this - and is pressing ahead with an Empty Dwelling Management Order. Tesco really isn't helping the local area, is it?

Sunday 28 September 2008

Kissman Lives - in Harrogate

For those who wondered what had happened to Tesco's Michael Kissman (replaced by Nick Gellatly in St Albans!), we've found this article in the Harrogate Advertiser. Before clicking on the link, we feel you need to be aware that you might experience a massive feeling of deja vue.

Having recieved negative feedback on Tesco's first proposal, Mr Kissman is now putting forwards a new proposal for a '25 per cent smaller store' with a 'raft of improvements to the store's environmental credentials'. The new store will 'create over 360 jobs for local people' and '[clear] up an eyesore'.

Sounds very similar to St Albans, doesn't it - and we do hope that Mr Kissman doesn't resort to recycling press releases again to save time.

(PS - for the benefit of those in Harrogate, our response to the claims was:
  • Smaller store - still too big, and with the option to expand it still there.
  • Environmental improvements - tokenism, with no real attempt to solve real environmental issues. For example Tesco suggested a very short bike lane that petered out 100 metres from the store while promoting more car use by suggesting a store away from public transport with a 476 place car park!
  • Jobs for local people - supermarkets of course don't create jobs - they cost hundreds of local retail jobs and suck money from the local economy to Tesco Head Office.
  • Solving an eyesore - one that Tesco created of course...)

Thursday 25 September 2008

Hertford says No as well

It's not proving a good month for Tesco's planners. Following their knock-back in Sheringham and the recent spat with St Albans District Council, the supermarket giant's plans for Hertford have been rejected.

You may remember that Tesco's plan was to knock down an existing store and build one twice the size - something that we were worried about Tesco doing in St Albans given the size of car park it proposed!

However, as the Hertfordshire Mercury reports, East Herts Council's development control committee has unanimously rejected the proposal following thousands 0f objections from local people.