Time to stop Tesco in Stokes Croft

There is still time to stop Tesco in Stokes Croft.

I have just written to Nigel Butler, Bristol City Council’s planning officer.

The deadline to write to Nigel is today. I am sorry this is last-minute but – like for the rest of us, life is pressured. It is hard to find time to campaign in between working and caring for dependents (let alone eating and sleeping!).

Stop press: Submit letters to Nigel, the planner, until 8 December 2010 – get writing/emailing!

Please go to the No to Tesco Stokes Croft campaign website for the template letter to help you raise planning issues with the Council – see Two more ways to take action, below, for a summary.

The No Tesco in Stokes Croft campaign team has unsung heros, giving their precious time to make the planning laws intelligible and relevant. They also make fabulous fund-raising bicycle-powered fresh pumpkin and ginger soup (see pic above and below).

<h2>Success so far</h2>

Campaigning by the No Tesco in Stokes Croft and a fiercely active community has kept the multinational out of Stokes Croft for a year.

Reputed to be the last high street in the UK not to have corporate retailer, Stokes Croft wants it to stay that way.

Tesco did not get full planning permission on 22 September 2010, an historic community day which saw over 200 protestors fill the Council chambers.

Nor did Tesco get an alcohol license for its proposed store in Stokes Croft, thanks to hundreds of letters of objection sent to Bristol City Council.

The community’s objections were supported by the police who argued that another retailer selling (cheap) alcohol in the area would increase existing problems of “pre-loading” and street drinking.

<h2>Two more ways to take action</h2>

1. WRITE / EMAIL Bristol City Council about two vital planning issues before 7 December

a) Noise
Tesco’s recent noise report is wholly inaccurate and misleading. Tesco cannot comply with the Council’s noise conditions.

b) Traffic
Because goods are delivered “just-in-time” from centralised depots, a Tesco Express (by Tesco’s own reckoning) would get 6 deliveries a day, 42 a week. These would block the cycle path, bus stop and two pedestrian crossings on either side.

Please see No Tesco in Stokes Croft’s detailed template letter.

Copy, paste, add your address and personalise.

Email: nigel.butler AT bristol.gov.uk (CC: rachel.h.bibb AT gmail.com so campaigners have a copy) or write to: Nigel Butler, Development Management, City Development, Bristol City Council, Brunel House, St, George’s Road, Bristol BS1 5UY.

2) ATTEND the Council meeting to find out if these objections have been heard – it will be another historic day for the community.

Wed 8 December 2010 at 2pm at the Bristol City Council, College Green.

Anyway, here is a copy of my letter:

“Dear Nigel

Re. Applications for proposed Tesco on Cheltenham Road

I have lived in walking distance of Stokes Croft for over 20 years. It is my shopping area and my community, and I strongly object to a planning application from a supermarket which will undermine the area’s unique character, local trade and community cohesion.

I attended the Council planning meeting on October 22. Like many who did so, I was appalled and disheartened by the process.

Over 200 people crowded into the Council chambers. There were over 50 in the overspill room. We took time out of our busy lives – caring for our families, studying or working – because of the depths of our concern for our community.

We had three learned submissions from our representatives, Claire Milne, Sam Allen and Rachel Bibb. These clearly outlined to the letter of the planning law, why the application from Tesco should not go ahead.

Planners dismissed our concerns on the basis they had received legal advice that they were not relevant (material considerations) to the external works and shop front applications.

This dismissive response was shocking and incomprehensible.

We expressed concerns about how a successful application from Tesco would increase traffic on Cheltenham Road, a main artery high-street with a cycle lane.

And how would a huge lorry negotiate the one-track cobblestoned Picton Lane at the back of the proposed store?

I was shocked to discover that these genuine concerns for safety were not considered significant. Why? Because change of use had already been granted in September 2009, and traffic issues were supposedly dealt with at the time in that application.

How can this be a satisfactory response?

Tesco used a third party to make its application so change of use was granted on the basis that it was a “shop” – an ordinary shop like its neighbours.

Traffic issues were dealt with not knowing the true identity of the application.

Now the planners know the real situation – that change of use was actually granted to a multinational corporation that operates just-in-time deliveries and, in this case, at least 42 a week at up to 40 minutes each within a 6 hour period – should they not re-examine traffic concerns?

Why have the impacts to public and highway safety not been assessed when servicing a store is a material consideration?

The Government’s Planning Inspectorate has already ruled that servicing is a material consideration for external works and shop frontage applications, as shown in the case of Mill Road in Cambridge and Sunningdale in Berkshire.

I now refer to a letter drafted by the No Tesco in Stokes Croft campaign which I support – I am grateful to the campaign for the hours of unpaid work that have gone into studying the applications and drafting a detailed, informed and intelligent response.

When drafting your report to the councillors, I would like you to address the following questions:

1. Why, when the Government’s Planning Inspectorate has already ruled that servicing is a material consideration for these applications, are you denying this and ignoring the significant risks to public and highway safety?

2. Why has there been no impact assessment of the significant risks to public and highway safety posed by the servicing of this proposed store, now that you have information about the intensity of such servicing at clearly precarious locations?

It would be negligent to grant permission for these applications in the absence of an adequate impact assessment.

Bristol’s Statement of Community Involvement

Why did the planners ignore Bristol’s Community Involvement Statement?

Again, I am grateful to my campaigning colleagues, for expressing my concerns so thoughtfully and thoroughly. Here they are:

Bristol’s Community Involvement Statement is a statutory requirement from central government and significant amounts of public money have been spent producing it.

It is therefore entirely unacceptable to grant permission for these applications until the directives within the Statement have been followed.

Whilst the specifics of how applicants comply with the Statement is discretional, it is unacceptable that the Council’s Planning Officers have made no attempts to encourage compliance with it – or sought any explanation for why the applicant is refusing to comply with it.

The fact that both the Council and applicant have shown complete disregard for the Statement must also be recognised as showing complete disrespect for the need to involve the community in their operations and plans.

Bristol’s Community Involvement Statement states that:

“Developers will be expected to involve the local community and Ward Members in early discussion of the implications of their proposals and how these might be dealt with. [our emphasis]”

The document also states that the Council will encourage developers to undertake various specific community involvement activities. This particular proposed development falls under category 2 – sensitive sites. The document outlines a variety of activities the Council is supposed to encourage developers to carry out.

Tesco has not meaningfully involved the community or Ward members in the development of its plans. Nor have we seen evidence of the Council encouraging Tesco to do this.

In fact, when our local MP and Barbara Janke asked Tesco to carry out a consultation, the company said it would only do this if it did not need to call it a consultation as it was not prepared to act on the results.

This is clear evidence of Tesco’s complete disregard the needs of our local community.

It would be entirely negligent to grant permission for this proposed store in the absence of efforts to adhere to Bristol’s Community Involvement Statement. Refusal to do so by the applicant can only be viewed as further evidence of Tesco’s disregard for its impact on our community.

When drafting your report to Councillors, I would like planners to address the following questions:

What efforts has the Council made to encourage Tesco to adhere to the Community Involvement Statement? If none, please explain why.

What activities has Tesco carried out to involve the community in the development of its plans?

What is the purpose of the Community Involvement Statement if the Council ignores it in Planning decisions such as these?

SPD10 and the Stokes Croft Plan are relevant to these applications

We were not allowed to ask questions in the October 22 meeting nor even to point silently to a document which was so crucial to your understanding.

SPD10 contains a directive on page 13 that ‘Development proposals are expected to address … the Stokes Croft Study’.

The page on which this directive is given, also includes a map clearly showing the boundary including the proposed site.

So, whilst SPD10′s boundaries fall metres short of the proposed site, page 13 [the page we stood up to point to, silently!] contains an exception where the boundary is extended to include the Stokes Croft area.

SPD10 explicitly identifies this area as being in need of particular attention and, more specifically, that independent traders must be protected from supermarkets.

Planning officers have dismissed the relevance of SPD10 and the Stokes Croft Plan on the basis that SPD10′s boundaries fall metres short of the proposed site.

However if this directive on page 13 of SPD10 did not intend the proposed site to be included, then surely the inclusion of the map would be accompanied by a note explaining that this stretch of Cheltenham Road is not included in this directive.

In the absence of this stated exclusion, then the map must be interpreted to delineate the expanded boundary for this particular directive.

The Stokes Croft Plan makes it clear that care must be taken to ensure the range of small shops is not supplanted by supermarkets. It is unacceptable to dismiss this.

As someone who has used, supported and engaged with these local shops for the last 20 years, I feel very strongly about this.

Permission cannot be granted for these applications until an adequate explanation has been provided as to why planning officers are choosing to ignore the clear boundaries set within SPD10, with respect to the Stokes Croft Plan.

When drafting your report to Councillors I would like planners to address the following questions:

Why the map on page 13 of SPD10 clearly showing the proposed site being included within the Stokes Croft Plan is being ignored?

Why, if the proposed site was not intended to be included within SPD10′s directive to address the Stokes Croft Plan, there is no annotation on the map (that includes the proposed site), clearly stating that despite the Stokes Croft Plan including this site, that for the purposes of SPD10, this is not the case?

Why, when the official Plan for Stokes Croft makes it clear that care must be taken to protect independent traders from supermarkets, absolutely nothing has been done to address this?

For the proposed store to open, Tesco must apply and be granted permission for an extension

Again I am grateful for the preparation and research that has gone into my co-campaigners’ assessment of the situation. I could not have expressed it better myself.

The addition of 26 square metres of pre-fabricated buildings in the form of walk-in chiller and freezer rooms clearly constitutes an extension to the existing building.

Tesco has not applied for this and is attempting to pass these prefabricated buildings as external works.

Permission to open the proposed store cannot be granted in the absence of an additional application for an extension.

When drafting your report to councillors, I would like planners to address the following questions:

Why there has been no application for an extension for these pre-fabricated buildings?

Why the Council has not requested such an application as a condition to opening the proposed store?

Why, when the need for this extension was raised ahead of the meeting on 22 September, planning officers failed to respond to this and the issue was completely ignored?

Tesco’s recently submitted noise report

Tesco’s noise report entirely flawed and full of inconsistencies and therefore completely invalid.

Tesco’s BS4142 acoustic report, submitted by KR Associates, is highly inaccurate.

In several areas, incorrect methods and have been used, leading to a distorted and inaccurate noise assessment which wrongly states that Tesco’s proposed external works will fall within Bristol City Council’s stated noise requirements for new developments of 6dB below background levels.

Background noise level assessment

To assess background noise level, the report states that for night time assessments, 5 minute noise readings should be measured throughout the night, and the lowest 5 minute reading should be taken as the background noise level. The lowest 5 minute reading KRA measured was 27.1 dB (see p26). However, they have not used the lowest 5 minute reading in their background noise level assessment, but have instead worked out the average reading from the entire night. This means they assessed the background noise level at 30dB, which is 2.9dB higher than if they had used the lowest reading as required.

Acoustic Feature Correction of plant

In BS4142 noise assessments, the measured noise emitted by the plant should bepenalised by 5dB if the noise contains a distinguishable, discrete, continuous note (whine, hiss, screech, hum etc), distinct impulses (bangs, clicks, clatters or thumps) or an irregular occurrence. The report has not applied the acoustic feature correction which makes the readings incorrect because:

The plant will emit a distinguishable, discrete note: The condenser (Searle MGB124) and the AC units (Mitsubishi) have a high frequency whine caused by the motors and a low frequency hum created by the fan blades.

The noise emitted will be irregular and will include distinct impulses: the plant will be operated by a thermostat, meaning it will consistently turn off when it reaches a desired temperature, and on again when the temperature drops below a certain level. This will create a sudden jump in noise from the plant which will normally be accompanied by a clicking noise from a solenoid in the motor.
The measurements in Tesco’s report misrepresent the situation because:

It assessed the condenser within controlled conditions, where the air through the fan would have been uniform and not caused much noise. In real conditions (i.e. outside), even a slight wind can cause the fan blades to make a hum noise.

Data beyond 5000Hz has not been included despite the human ear being able to detect sound as high as 20,000Hz. This means the report does not determine tonal content on this range of audible hearing and therefore does not represent an adequate assessment of the actual noise of the plants.

Searle Condenser Data

Tesco’s report rates the condenser as having a sound power level of 50.5 dB when running at 2V 216prm. However, the manufacturer’s (Searle) Sales Deparment have provided data which suggests the sound power level will be much higher than this.

According to Tesco’s report their proposed external works will fall within the Council’s stated noise requirements of 6dB below background levels. However, when recalculated to take into account the inaccuracies highlighted above, both night and day time levels are in fact above this figure and will therefore exceed the Council’s condition of being 6dB below background levels.

This acoustic report is wholly inaccurate and misleading.

Tesco is renowned for submitting similarly misleading and inaccurate reports elsewhere in the country.

They are wasting our precious time and resources and cannot be allowed to continue to make a farce of this situation.

Having initially failed to even produce an acoustic report when clearly required in order to meet conditions set by the Council and now presenting an invalid report, permission must be denied for this external works application on the basis that they are unable to meet the conditions set.

In the Development Control meeting on 22 September, the No Tesco campaign submitted an acoustic report carried out by an accredited noise consultant.

This clearly showed that the external works would create too much noise to meet the Council’s condition.

The Committee dismissed this report and asked Tesco to submit their own report. This then allowed Tesco to hire a company willing to distort its findings in order to gain the results Tesco desired.

This draws into question the appropriateness of Tesco (or any applicant), rather than an independent body appointed by Bristol City Council, being responsible for commissioning such reports.

When drafting your report to councillors, I would like planners to address the following questions:

How can Tesco’s report be valid if it has incorrectly used the average, rather than lowest background noise levels?

Why does the report not incorporate the necessary 5dB penalty in light of it falling within the category of noise that requires this?

Why does the report only use data up to 5000Hz when the human ear detects noise up to 20 000Hz?

What mechanism does the Council have to prevent applicants from submitting misleading noise reports that fail to comply with UK standards, and to disqualify applicants who do this from submitting further applications?

Ahead of the 22 September Development Control meeting, you received hundreds of letters making an official complaint about the handling of this case by the Planning team, specifically asking to be notified of what action will be taken to investigate this.

What action is being taken around this? Please ensure your team is no longer dismissing our valid concerns.

So far, I have spoken to no one who has been impressed by the planning process.

Genuine and informed concerns seem to have been too readily dismissed.

I trust that you can restore our confidence in the planning process

With best wishes

Elisabeth Winkler”


8 responses to “Time to stop Tesco in Stokes Croft

  1. A very powerful statement Elisabeth. Full credit to you for finding time in your busy life to pull this together. I will write to Nigel in support of the campaign later today.
    The bicycle powered soup looks intriguing – where can I find out more?


  2. Hi John

    Thank you so much for your encouragement, and for writing to Nigel.

    The bicycle is rigged up to take a blender so when you pedal, you can blend smoothies or soups. It is a great attraction – adults and kids alike – at stalls, festivals, fairs etc.

    It is a vivid and practical example of sustainable energy.

    In fact, I have just realised that as a cyclist (welcome back from your amazing trip…), you might have an interest.

    Let me know if you need more info about the bike!



  3. Following your interest in the bicycle-powered blender, I have added a picture, John.


  4. I hope Tescos are given their marching orders! They seem to be all over the place like a bad rash. No sooner are they driven from one part of the country, by the time you know it, they’re popping up somewhere else. We are having the same problem here in Dartford, Kent. We already have 2 big supermarkets i.e. ,Sainsbury, Waitrose and a Tesco Express and little corner shops for a small town like Dartford. But now Tesco in their wisdom have decided that they would like to build a super duper Tesco here – already the town as it now stands is choking from all angles.
    I wish all the luck in driving them away.


    • Hi Ninma

      Thank you for your sympathy and sympathy to you, too.

      I think it is outrageous the way communities have to FIGHT – use their precious energy, resources and time – to stop supermarkets, and Tesco in particular, because it seems to have a particularly empire-building policy.

      If I google the words Stop + Tesco, I can see very quickly that a huge number of communities like yours and mine all over the UK are fighting similar battles.

      Tescopoly reckon there are about 300 such battles currently being fought.

      How come a multi-national has so much more power over a local community?

      We need big changes at a national level on our planning laws, for a start.

      Good luck. And let us know if we can help.

      PS Tescopoly is a good resource and so is the New Economics Foundation, in particular its reports, Clone Britain 2010 and Plugging the Leaks, which shows money spent and recycled locally is worth more than when it is spent in supermarkets.


  5. Oh, thanks Elisabeth. That looks a lot of fun. I’m popping into the Rudry Rural Market on Sunday and will go armed with this picture.


  6. Pingback: Time to stop Tesco in Stokes Croft » Lawyer Health Talk

  7. This clear lack of vital information shines a spotlight on the faith Tesco appears to have in its ability to bulldoze the planning system.


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