Councillors sitting on a council plans panel at Leeds Civic Hall this afternoon have gone AGAINST planning officers’ recommendations to refuse plans for new Asda and Tesco stores in Old Lane, Beeston.
Members of the south and west plans panel heard that planning officers were recommending that BOTH plans – for Tesco to build a new store on the former Moorhouse Jam Factory site and Asda to demolish its existing store and build a larger one on the same site – be refused.
However councillors voted to OVERRULE the officers’ recommendations, with some saying they were broadly supportive of BOTH stores.
They asked planning officers to bring back a report to a future plans panel providing more information on the cumulative impact two stores would have on the surrounding area and the impact of extra traffic on the community.
Once a further report is brought back before panel, councillors will make a final decision on whether to approve one, both or neither of the stores.
But many councillors gave a strong steer to planning officers at the meeting that they were sympathetic to having retail development in the Old Lane area.
Planning officers fear approving new stores in Old Lane would damage the chances of nearby Dewsbury Road – which is designated an important ‘town centre’ in planning terms – attracting a similar supermarket and could also result in the decline of existing stores elsewhere in Beeston (on Town St and the Tommy Wass crossroads).
Councillors debated Tesco’s application first.
Tesco’s detailed plans are for a new convenience retail store with a net floorspace of almost 1,500 square metres, with opening hours of 7.30pm Monday to Saturday and be open six hours on a Sunday. It would employ 36 full-time staff and 84 part-timers and have 163 parking spaces.
Cllr Javaid Akhtar (Lab, Hyde Park and Woodhouse) said people were going through ‘hard times’ financially and had a right to decide where they wanted to shop.
Cllr Caroline Gruen (Lab, Bramley and Stanningley) said councillors were in danger of allowing policy to have too heavy an influence over their decision. She added:
“There may be more creative ways of developing Dewsbury Road in the future and helping it flourish – a supermarket [as per officers’ recommendations] may not be one of them.
“A new store on this site will enhance the area and create jobs and I think we should be finding more ways to move forward with this.”
Cllr Mick Coulson (Lab, Pudsey) said he could not think of anywhere at the bottom of Dewsbury Road where a supermarket would sit.
And Cllr Rod Wood (Cons, Calverley and Farsley) said he wanted to approve both Tesco’s and Asda’s plans and allow the stores to fight it out as to which one was financially sustainable. “That is their problem, not ours. It’s the market,” he added.
It was left to Middleton Park Labour councillor Paul Truswell to sound a word of caution, saying more information was needed before members could make an informed decision on the plans. He urged officers to bring back a further report with more information before ‘the death knell was potentially sounded on Dewsbury Road as a fully fledged town centre’. He added: “Dewsbury Road cannot be allowed to wither on the vine.”
Representatives from Tesco said that the store would bring more local jobs and more choice and that their plans were widely supported in the local community. They said there were no suitable sites for them to build a new store in Dewsbury Road.
There had been 37 letters of objection, as well as objection letters from the Post Office, Oasis Dental Practice, Leeds Civic Society, Beeston Co-op and Hunslet Morrisons.
Councillors then debated the Asda application.
Asda’s outline (initial) plans are to demolish the existing store (formerly a Netto) and replace with a new larger store with 1,903 square metres of retail space. There would be a car park of approximately 195 spaces. The store is proposed to be open 24 hours and employ around 100 full-time staff.
Much of the debate took place during the tesco application. Morley North Morley Borough Indpendent Cllr Robert Finnigan summed up:
“Planning officers have a strong steer that the panel is sympathetic to the fact that we need to have something on Old Lane.”
Pointing to large support in the community for the plans, Asda communications manager Philip Bartram said the current store did not serve customers adequately, pointed to Asda’s work in the community and said the supermarket giant offered ‘real regeneration and real jobs’. He added:
“Let the market decide which is the best way forward.”
A representative from Hugh Gaitskell School spoke of Asda’s support for the school.
Six people have objected to the scheme, with 11 in support (including one petition with 1,000 signatures). Objectors include Beeston Co-op and Hunslet Morrisons. Tesco has also strongly objected, claiming:
“We believe that this application is no more than a blocking tactic to protect Asda’s own interests at an out of town site in Beeston …”
Speaking on both applications, planning officers said that they would need to look at the impact the new Asda in Middleton, which is due to start building work next April, and the planned new supermarkets on Old Lane might have on areas like Hunslet District Centre and its Morrisons.
South Leeds Life will continue to keep you updated on the latest in this long-running planning saga.
What do you think? One, both or neither? Should Dewsbury Road be designated a town centre? Will the decision impact on Dewsbury Road’s future? Who’s right – the councillors or planning officers? Have your say in the comments section below.