The news that Tesco have won their appeal against an initial decision to turn down planning permission for a new store, should come as no surprise. Over 500 people objected to Tesco plans to open an Express store in a dis-used pub, the Black Horse Inn on Somerton Road. The Council planning officers recommended that the application be refused as they are concerned about congestion and road safety issues together with a lack of parking provision.
Local residents have also objected on grounds of impact on existing shops. The Council's planning committee considered the application on 1st April 2009 and rejected the plans. The committee recommended refusal on three grounds - that it would be detrimental to the vitality and viability of nearby retail centres; insufficient parking; substandard access.
The Planning Inspectorate however allowed Tesco to appeal to convert the former Black Horse Inn pub on Somerton Road into an Express store. While I have no doubt that the Tesco PR machine will role out the usual claptrap about creating jobs and boosting the local economy, but there can be little doubt that this new Tesco Express store in Somerton, is part of an aggressive business strategy in the Newport area that will expressly target local shops and small businesses in the local shopping area, with a view to taking their trade. Sadly this is part of a recognised problem which is taking place across Wales and which does not just relate to Tesco but most of the other larger UK wide retail chains.
The Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) has noted that the UK loses approximately 2,000 local shops every year and that of this continues then by 2015 there will be no independent retailers left in business, something that effects consumers and communities as they effectively lose any real choice in the marketplace. Over recent years across all of Wales, that once particularly rich mix of local shops, small businesses and local suppliers have come under increasing pressure as the usual suspects in the shape of “identikit” chain stores have replicated themselves across our nation's high streets.
The planning process is being undermined, as when our local authorities fear the cost implications of supermarket applications being taken to appeal after appeal if the original outline planning permission is refused then we are progressing down a slippery slope. When we reach the point that where Councillors may be advised by their officers of the potential costs if a development proposal involving a larger more aggressive retail company is refused and that they could go to appeal - then so much for local democracy!