Councillors vote to reject Bath Tesco plans
Councillors have voted to throw out plans for a new Tesco supermarket on the former Bath Press site during a meeting this afternoon.
An application for the single-storey shop with a 395-space car park below it, as well as housing and offices, was due to be heard at a Bath and North East Somerset Council development control committee meeting back in December.
But it was re-scheduled for today, because of complications involving a rival bid for a new £160 million Sainsbury’s development in Green Park.
A planning policy called “sequential testing” means that sites closest to the city centre should be considered for development ahead of any further afield.
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As things stand, the Sainsbury’s proposal should take precedent, but there are questions over whether that scheme will ever be able to go ahead because Homebase, which is located on the site, has said it does not intend to leave until at least 2020.
However, council officers stood by their original decision to recommend that the Tesco application was refused, saying there was no rush for a new supermarket in Bath.
Ann Bartaby, from Tesco’s planning agent Terence O’Rourke, spoke at the meeting and said she did not agree with the council’s reasons for recommending refusal.
She said: “We do not believe this is a balanced or well-considered report that stands up to scrutiny.”
She added: “We know there is an aspiration for a food store close to Green Park, but there is no application for this and no evidence it will happen in the foreseeable future.”
Sophie Akokhia, Tesco corporate affairs manager, said the £80 million development would generate more than 600 jobs for local people.
It was also revealed that Tesco intended to contribute £5 million towards the decommissioning of the Windsor Bridge gas works, money which would be used to pay back the loan from the West of England Local Enterprise Partnership.
During the debate many of the questions from the councillors were about potential traffic problems around the Windsor Bridge junction, just outside the proposed store’s entrance.
There was also a lot of concern about the possible impact on businesses in Moorland Road, particularly after Mark Felgate, representing the Co-op, said there was a concern that the Scala store could close if Tesco was given the go-ahead.
Councillor Eleanor Jackson (Lab, Radstock) said: “I think my personal reason for objecting is the impact on Moorland Road.
“I hear what the speakers on both sides have said, and I realise it is a finely judged decision, but I am just thinking of Paulton High Street and that has become a graveyard since Tesco in Midsomer Norton arrived.”
However, other councillors felt that Tesco would serve as an “anchor” for Moorland Road, drawing in more custom from the wider area and cited the example of Keynsham.
Councillor Les Kew (Con, High Littleton) said: “I am absolutely convinced this will benefit the small retail shops in the Moorland Road area.”
He added: “Everything about the Tesco development in Keynsham has been positive all the way through.”
At the end of the debate councillors voted nine to four in favour of following the recommendation and refusing the application.