Wednesday 8 December 2010: Bristol councillors voted 4-3 to give Tesco planning permission in Stokes Croft.
A decision with long-term consequences was made by seven individuals, some of whom seemed ill-informed, others partisan, with the seconder of the pro-Tesco proposal absolutely silent during the meeting.
It was clear some counsellors did not understand the issues. None were as informed as our campaigners.
For instance: We explained to the planning committee a precedent existed at Mill Road, Cambridge where the planning inspector dismissed Tesco’s appeal, ruling the store would “pose unacceptable risks to highway safety”.
We were arguing Tesco’s typical just-in-time deliveries – supermarkets keep their stock in centralised depots not in the shop back room – would cause serious traffic problems.
The committee did not even know how many deliveries a Tesco Metro could expect.
We knew. We had asked Tesco. And according to Tesco, the answer is: about six deliveries a day lasting about 40 minutes.
Imagine the congestion. Cheltenham Road is a busy road with a cycle and bus lane, and a bus stop.
We were a ‘human-lorry’ the week before in front of the Tesco boarded-up bunker at its proposed site and stopped the traffic for one minute. A friend driving at the time was stuck for ages.
Photo of human-lorry by Mark Simmons Photography
So, back to the planning meeting on Wednesday.
The campaigners gave cogent legal planning arguments.
Cllr Derek Pickup admitted he had been substituted at the last minute and did not understand the noise issue.
Cllr Chris Windows said he was worried about the noise.
Both later voted AGAINST the proposal – Thanks to People’s Republic of Stokes Croft for voting information so far.
Cllr Chris Davis commented that Tesco uses the largest trucks than any other supermarket. (Need to check his voting record and will update asap) [Yes, he voted FOR].
I reported on Twitter at the time: Cllr Alex Woodman: “genuinely torn” “considering abstention” over traffic impact of Tesco in Stokes Croft.
Cllr Alex Woodman confessed that at the back of his mind was the concern that a Tesco appeal would cost the Bristol taxpayer (a real fear that shows how Tesco bullies the democratic process).
His understandable worry was reported by Ian Onions of the Bristol Evening Post who also claimed Cllr Alex Woodman’s comment was greeted by “howls of derision” from the campaigners. Ian Onions’ reporting of the campaigners was over-dramatic. I heard no howls.
This is what I heard: several campaigners reminding Cllr Alex Woodman that a) planning meeting must stick only to material evidence – not legal ones b) In the No Tesco on Mill Road, Cambridge, Tesco’s appeal was dismissed .
Cllr Tim Kent asked if the Council had found out how many daily deliveries Tesco could expect. He seemed the only councillor apart from Cllr Alex Woodman who seemed engaged in the process.
So I surprised and shocked when suddenly Cllr Tim Kent proposed accepting Tesco’s application.
A hand shot up to second it.
It belonged to Cllr Jos Clarke who had caught my attention during the meeting by the faces she pulled when campaigners spoke, and her crossed arms and truculent body-language.
Why did Cllr Jos Clarke second the Tesco proposal with such alacrity? I don’t know. She did not say anything in the meeting. She was SILENT.
And the two other councillors who also voted FOR Tesco? Cllr. Mark Bradshaw and Cllr Chris Davis? I will verify asap – I can’t wait for the webcam to check my notes.
[After watching webcam of the meeting, it is still a mystery to me why Cllrs Chris Davis, Mark Bradshaw, and Jos Clarke voted FOR Tesco, especially as the latter was SILENT throughout. The chair commented on the unusually silent committee a couple of times.]
After the meeting, Cllr Alex Woodman urged me to check the webcam. He said I would then be able to see how he was about to propose that the councillors REJECT Tesco.
But he was pipped at the post by Cllr Tim Kent’s proposal to ACCEPT Tesco.
I said to Cllr Alex Woodman that I was surprised by Cllr Tim Kent’s sudden proposal to accept Tesco.
Cllr Alex Woodman said he was surprised too.
I said: So why didn’t you say your bit about rejecting Tesco?
Cllr Alex Woodman said he had to be careful as chair of the committee not to overrule proceedings.
But you overruled us, I said.
(Cllr Alex Woodman would not let us talk/ask questions except in our allotted time at the beginning, and threatened us with eviction if we spoke out of turn).
Well, Cllr Alex Woodman explained it was different because we were not elected. Listen, this is not personal. He seemed a nice chap. But it is a rotten, shoddy and inadequate planning system.
Note: I cannot check these names at present because I cannot YET find details of the planning meeting on the website. Or the promised webcam.
Stop press: Cllr Alex Woodman just replied to my Twitter enquiry saying the webcam of proceedings is being archived and is now available.
So, on Wednesday, the big people won. The little people fighting for their local community lost.
But I am not defeated. The fight was worth it.
And it’s not over yet.