‘Grave concerns’ over new Tesco store

Supermarket changes approved but planning chairman is critical of company’s tactics

THE chairman of North Devon Council’s planning committee has accused a major supermarket retailer of attempting to “ride roughshod” over local council planning rules.

Cllr Jasmine Chesters spoke as Tesco sought retrospective permission for a raft of “minor changes” they had already made to a brand new superstore being built at Seven Brethren in Barnstaple.

The company diverted from the original plans approved in March last year, making some 35 changes including the removal of the petrol station car wash and relocation of kiosk and pumps, as well as alterations to the car parking layout, service yard, doors, fire escapes and roof “windcatchers”.

Tesco has also made a number of aesthetic changes to the outside appearance of the building, while inside, a mezzanine floor area has been increased to make room for some of the external plant machinery.

No changes have been made to the amount of retail space or split between the type of goods on sale, but the company was taken to task over the store’s light-coloured roof and agreed to change it using a dark membrane to meet original planning requirements.

While she agreed the changes were “for the better”, Cllr Chesters said that council members had “grave concerns” that Tesco had nearly finished building the store, but not in accordance with the permission given.

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“That these changes are retrospect, meaning the work has already been carried out, I find appalling,” she said.

“Tesco has opened a considerable number of new stores in this country during the last two years and obviously employs architects and planning experts.

“Yet it still appears that with all that expertise it is back here asking for many changes to the original application, which was approved with conditions signed up to by the company.

“I believe that as a large company, it is trying to ride roughshod over this council as a planning authority.”

The application has been embroiled in controversy from the beginning after it was revealed that Tesco had submitted proposals for the new store under the name of Brian Ford’s which operated a supermarket on the site at the time.

Cllr Chesters added: “For a long time members of the public were unaware that Tesco had purchased Brian Ford’s and thought that they were supporting a local store. The permission granted to Ford’s was what Tesco were using and enlarging on when beginning this application.”

Melanie Chiswell, corporate affairs manager for Tesco, said the changes would improve the overall scheme.

“We have worked very hard and closely with planning officers and feel these small adjustments will enhance and improve the building overall,” she said.

The planning committee granted planning permission for all the changes but refused plans for a 14-metre long “Tesco Extra” illuminated sky sign above the entrance to the store.

The new store, due to open at 8am on Monday, February 7, will employ 350 members of staff, including 100 former Brian Ford’s workers, who will be re-employed on improved terms and conditions.

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