Saturday, December 20, 2008

Should Tesco be allowed to impose themselves on Knowle?

No comments:
Copy of a letter sent to Juliette Bishop, Corporate Affairs Manager, Tesco Stores Ltd

Dear Juliette

Re: Plans for a Tesco Express convenience store – former public house on Axbridge Road, Knowle

As a Knowle resident with a very strong interest in the provision of local facilities, like shops, to meet local needs I have taken a serious interest in Tesco plans for The Friendship pub, which I used to live opposite and still live quite close to. I’ve been talking to many locals, shopkeepers in particular and have been given a copy of the letter you wrote (dated 28 November) to a very small number of people in the area.

Whilst some locals might have heard rumours of Tesco plans most people are taken aback and will be concerned by the sudden developments and serious lack of prior community consultation. The ‘professional team’ that has been working on ‘plans for an Express store’ have not thought to involve a range of local people from the off. Your letter was quickly followed (on 4 Dec) by the submission of a planning application to build a car park over the pub garden. Local residents only have until 6 January to respond, with Christmas and New Year rapidly approaching!

This is for me not the action of a ‘good neighbour’ though your letter begins ‘Dear Neighbour’ and mentions that Tesco ‘operate a ‘good neighbour’ policy’. A good neighbour would generally be in close, frequent and good quality contact with people, probably a wide range of people, in the community – agreeing with the idea that neighbourhoods and communities should ideally shape where they live through partnership arrangements.

Given what I have said I ask you to slow this process down and give everyone involved proper opportunities to discuss plans in the new year. Would Tesco be willing to send representatives to a meeting with those living and working in Knowle?

I don’t agree that the planned Express will be a ‘small neighbour convenience store’ in a few key senses. First, the store floor area (3000 sq feet) and takings expected will be significant at a neighbourhood and community level eg compared with the existing convenience store and newsagents on Axbridge Rd and many other local shops of all kinds. As a result the impact of your Express on the existing local shops is likely to be significant and negative. Second, the changes on the local roads, already increasingly busy, will be significant both due to the proposed new car park and due to deliveries to the proposed store in very large vehicles. Local roads are not suitable for more yet more traffic and more large vehicles. Congestion, air quality and noise are likely to worsen further and people’s health and quality of life along with it.

The statement that Tesco ‘intend to improve the existing car park arrangements’ is not true. In fact you wont be modifying existing pub parking arrangements but instead plan to build a new car park over the pub garden! Its very disappointing that as yet no drawings are available online to show the exact layout proposed but the council planning officer dealing with this case described what is intended to me over the phone.

The loss of green space with a lot of potential, to be replaced by a car park, would be a big blow to local amenity and to local wildlife. Cars turning in and out of the car park onto the busy road with much greater continuity and frequency than currently means greater risk of accidents. I’ve already referred to the environmental and health consequences. Tesco have not been proactive in seeking out locals and discussing such plans.

Your letter states that you locate ‘Express stores where they will be convenient for people to walk to, reducing the need to use a car’. In fact the proposed store is likely to get quite a lot of trade from people passing by in their cars – thus plans for a new car park. The effect of Tesco opening on this spot may well make the operation of other local shops unsustainable – if/as they close over time then the distances people are from their shops will increase, making it less likely that people will walk to the shop. Stats show that once walking distances to shops exceed 400 metres it becomes much harder for the elderly to access them.

Many items that would be sold in your store are already on sale in existing local shops at affordable prices. You are quoted in the Bristol Evening Post as saying that the immediate area was "currently under-served for convenience retailing". This opinion is not shared by local people who have a wide choice of types of shop close by already. In fact concern is high that should Tesco open then others shops will close, reducing choice, cutting competition and allowing prices to creep upwards. This is not the right location for a Tesco Express in my view.

There is concern locally that despite your ‘good neighbour’ policy the setting up of Tesco Express stores can be accompanied by: increased local litter; the increased presence of large bins which can obstruct walking and sometimes overflow; noise and anti-social behaviour due to people congregating; illegal parking on busy roads by some customers.

There are several possible uses for The Friendship – properly managed pub with good quality, large garden; conversion to flats, with access to large garden area; conversion to accomodation for the elderly…Options have not been fully explored and certainly have not been fully discussed locally.

You may feel that some/all of what I have said is flawed. You may feel you can allay fears. You may acknowledge negative impacts but feel that you can mitigate them somehow. I would welcome further communications and hope you will agree to meet with locals as I suggested earlier. I look forward to your reply.