We have chronicled on these pages the changes Asda have sought and in some cases gained to their original plans. It seems this is standard practice, get permission for what is acceptable and then keep pushing for longer opening hours, a petrol station – whatever you can get away with.
The discussion at Beeston Forum last night catalogued a series of alleged breaches of their planning permission for their new store on Old Lane. They are not building a second storey or shifting the car park to the other side of the site, but they are cutting corners when it comes to minimising the impact on local residents.
For example they started work on the site without agreeing with planning officers how they would manage the dirt. This resulted in mud on the roads and dust in the air until residents alerted the council.
They dug up and relayed a footpath without having an archaeologist on site. It may ‘just’ be a ginnel these days, but it is a footpath that dates back to medieval times.
Now their sub contractors are in doing the fitting out. They cannot park their vans on site, in the customer car park, so they park on the nearest available street. In this case Theodore Street. They arrive early and park all the way down the block on both sides of the road. All quite legal, but this is unofficial parking for Old Lane Post Office. Since they closed the Post Offices within walking distance, many people drive, especially older folk. Plus the vans make an often tricky junction even harder to navigate safely, especially when they park right on the corner blocking sight lines and forcing pedestrians into the road.
Asda are supposed to have signed up to the Considerate Constructors scheme, but it’s not clear they have. The Forum may never find out as Asda seem to have stopped replying to their letters.
What are Asda up to? They and their contractors know how far they can push things, which corners they can cut. They build these things all the time around the country and know how to keep costs down. One important aspect that Cllr Angela Gabriel pointed out to the meeting is that when the under-resourced planning officers do try to enforce the conditions, the builder is given a period (is it 21 days?) to put things right. So they can carry on spreading muck on the road, or whatever for another few weeks and with luck (from their point of view) that part of the job will be finished and they will have got away with cutting that particular corner.
Why do they have to behave like this? Well that’s just it they have to, it’s the law. They are required to maximise shareholder profits. The financial law trumps the planning law. It cuts across everything from squeezing farmers and other producers, paying their staff as little as they can get away with.
Asda are actually quite a green company. They run trains to their Wakefield distribution centre to keep lorries off the road, oh and because it’s cheaper. They recycle their own cardboard, well have you seen the cost of sending it to landfill?
From their point of view the months of inconvenience, noise and dirt that residents have to put up with are just temporary. What’s a bit of flak from a few people in the community for a few months compared to the thousands of customers that will go through their doors in the coming years?
I’m as appalled as the other thirty people sitting in the room last night, but I’m not surprised. Don’t we know that this is how supermarket chains, indeed any big company carries on?
What’s the answer to all this. Well we need some pretty fundamental changes to the priorities of this society. We could start by giving local authorities the resources to meet their obligations to the local community. Given the election result last week I can’t see that happening any time soon.
I’ll be back next week with more of my views from South of the River. If you’re on Twitter, you can follow me: @BeestonJeremy.