Elisabeth Winkler: Why our judicial review fight is about more than just the Stokes Croft Tesco

This judicial review is not about the rights and wrongs of Tesco. This is about whether local planners have the power to discriminate between a tiny indy store and a mega-retailer

By Elisabeth Winkler

You will remember how the Stokes Croft Tesco branch on Cheltenham Road became famous – it got damaged in a riot, the first of many to sweep the UK this year. Some blamed our peaceful campaign which was deeply irritating.

Thousands of Bristolians, including myself, had used legal means to stop Tesco opening a branch in one of the city’s most colourful high streets. Today, the Tesco Express is open, but looks empty. Thanks to our campaign, locals are aware of the importance of protecting their high street. Clearly, shoppers are voting with their feet.

The campaign is far from over. The High Court of Justice was in session on Monday to decide whether Bristol City Council’s decision to allow Tesco to open – without considering the extra deliveries involved – was lawful.

With the government currently trying to further deregulate the planning system, this judicial review is timely.

On Monday, it investigated a small – but significant – section of the planning decision: Bristol City Council’s failure to assess the traffic impact of Tesco’s 40-plus deliveries a week.

The council granted planning permission in November 2009 when a third party applied for change-of-use from comedy venue to “shop”. The planners did not know “shop” meant a multiple retail chain such as Tesco.

In early 2010, Tesco applied for further planning permission – including for a prefab extension to the back of the store for chiller and freezer rooms. At this point, we locals heard about the planned supermarket invasion and our campaign began.

Planning permission for a chill/freezer rooms may not seem serious but we know better. Supermarkets such as Tesco (and Asda, Morrison’s etc) depend on just-in-time deliveries to maximise retail space (and thus profits).

Unlike independent stores which store their goods in the back of the shop and have a few weekly deliveries, chain supermarkets store their goods in central depots and have frequent daily deliveries. This applies to so-called small shops such as Sainsbury’s Local or a Tesco Express – which has six daily deliveries.

Daily deliveries cause havoc. The busy Cheltenham Road (A38) has a bus and cycle lane outside Tesco, with a bus stop and congested traffic crossings either side. One local Tweeted on Monday: “Since Tesco opened on Cheltenham Road, I think I’ve never seen it without lorry or cars parked in bus lane.”

Bristol City Council had given Tesco the go-ahead last December, without a proper review of how 42 deliveries a week would affect traffic flow and public safety. Why wasn’t a traffic impact assessment done?

In my view, a full scale environmental, economic and cultural assessment needs to happen before planning permission is granted to any store. This would soon sort the wheat from the chaff: the genuinely small indy store would pass with flying colours; the mega-retailers would need conditions imposed to operate.

The devil is in the detail. It felt we were dancing on a pin of technical arguments on Momday. 

This High Court judicial review is not about the rights and wrongs of Tesco or any supermarket. This is about whether local planners have the power to discriminate the difference between the impacts of a tiny indy store – and a mega-retailer.Bristol City Council appeared to say it did not have this power. We are arguing that it does. Common sense says the difference in impact – in this instance, traffic – are unquestionable.Perhaps this will come clear at the judge’s summing-up. After a long day in the Cardiff court, Mr Justice Ouseley said he would give his decision in London at a later date.

Watch this space.

7 Responses to Elisabeth Winkler: Why our judicial review fight is about more than just the Stokes Croft Tesco
  1. John Peterson
    November 5, 2011 | 9:30 am

    It's not actually thinking outside of the box, it's a part of the theory itself. One of the main purposes of the JIT theory is waste reduction, and indeed transport costs are factored into it as standard. Fuel is not cheap these days after all.

    Sounds like it might be worth you reading more on this area then before criticising it or assuming it's do to with profit. Increased profit may be a consequence of it, but in a successful JIT system, it's rarely an explicit goal.

  2. Elisabeth
    November 4, 2011 | 12:23 pm

    Hi John

    I like your point that maybe if just-in-time deliveries were "done right", they could reduce waste.

    However, so far, supermarkets are one of the worst offenders when it comes to food waste: Daily Mirror estimated in 2008 that supermarkets throw away two million tons of food a year.

    Also, the cost of fuel, transport and fuel emissions would need to be tabled in to check resources were being saved.

    But I like the thinking: always good to think outside the box…

  3. Elisabeth Winkler
    November 4, 2011 | 12:14 pm

    Hi Dave, thanks for your thanks and for expressing your care for this special area.

    I liked what you said about: “the ability to accept and celebrate the differences and those who proactively go that extra thoughtful few steps make this tiny (yet massive on the inside) part of the world a pleasure to live in.”

    Sometimes it feels hard to explain this uniqueness.

    The fact is, Stokes Croft, and its continuation into the Gloucester Road, IS one of the last remaining independent high streets in the UK. It really IS unique (if not near-extinct…).

    I was happy with the Free Shop, myself. It provided a genuine and useful service. And I liked the way it turned “business-as-usual” on its head. Sometimes it is refreshing to have a space that does not rely on money for its existence.

    Thanks for telling me about Halfords. I had no heard. If this is the case, it is actually not good news for Fred Baker Cycles.

    To me, this is a similar situation as with Tesco in Stokes Croft: the corporates move in; the small shops close. I would much rather support a local independent store such as Fred Baker Cycles (where I indeed I bought a bike and where it went for servicing etc) than a corporate.

    Money spent in a local shop is re-spent locally ie with local printers; accountants; grocers etc. and so money spent locally benefits the locals. Studies show how money is worth more than when spent with a multiple retailer.

    Yes, chains are cheaper – but at what price?

  4. John Peterson
    November 4, 2011 | 10:06 am

    A minor point maybe, but a just in time delivery system isn't just about maximising profits, it's also about reducing waste, and done right can actually provide greater sustainability.

    This doesn't take away from the fact that trying to run one on that scale in that location is ridiculous, and should be stopped.

  5. Robin Whitlock
    November 3, 2011 | 10:22 am

    I would say that one of the chief demands of the Occupy movement, at least in the UK, should be reform of the planning system so that it works in favour of local people rather than corporations and central government. May I therefore invite everyone who has been involved with the Stokes Croft anti-Tesco campaign to get involved with Occupy Bristol as well, we're on the same side and need to move in the same direction.

    • Elisabeth
      November 4, 2011 | 12:26 pm

      Hi Robin

      Yes, I feel there are similar issues at stake: people vs corporate power to sum it up in horribly simplistic terms!

      As for getting involved, I wish I was elastic and there were three of me…..

  6. Dave Trew
    November 3, 2011 | 4:44 am

    Thanks for the update on the current situation Elizabeth. I've never really been a big fan of inequality and disregard, especially on the scale that the likes of Tesco's exerciser regularly, deceptfuly and indiscriminately. So manyits difficult to mention them all in one go. Beside this I'm intrigued by the one local businessman (excluding the no longer [once very audible and antagonizing] previous owner of the Tesco site) who is in favor of it's existence in Stokes Croft. The reason being because his is the one shop that benefits from its existence more than any other in the area only he has never been honest about this whilst lavishing his eagerness and praise for its opening. Such blatant selfishness and disregard towards the majority of his fellow independent local tradesmen/women and the eventual destructive impact of there livelihood that is promoted by displaying such support deeply saddens me. Why? Because when so many suffer or lose out for the benefit of a few, The almost incomprehensible but definitely unnecessary two faced monster called greed rears its ugly head. Avidly spurred on by its self serving vested interests it then goes about its insidious business (whether intentionally or not) to erode the only thing that truly matters. That of a functioning caring close community. One with the ability to think about its self as a whole and the individuals within it and extend that care towards other community. A stomping ground void of these qualitys have very little left to be proud of and get stamped on very quickly. They becomes fractured and its people isolated and in my opinion that sucks. BIG time sucks! Stokes croft, its surrounding areas of Montpelier and the often undervalued St Pauls etc has inhabitants that make up a rich tapestry of local life to be proud of. Its cultural diversity and (on the whole) the ability to accept and celebrate the differences and those who proactively go that extra thoughtful few steps make This tiny (yet massive on the inside) part of the world a pleasure to live in. One last thing Have you or anyone else heard that heard That Halfords are about to put open on Stokes croft I think with there competitive range of affordable bikes It would be a great boost for the trades people of the area. Also situated in a useless old squat called the free shop. It gets my vote ; )

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