Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Will it be Tesco Time in Westgate Tonight?

Stop Press!
Tesco application for Westgate rejected by Thanet District Council Planning Committee.

This evening, at 7pm, Thanet District Council's Planning Committee, will make it's decision on whether to approve a Tesco Express in Westgate's Station Road. As regular readers will know, as a ward councillor, I was asked to represent the residents, businesses and traders objecting to the application and I will be permitted a short summary speech before the meeting starts.

With only forty places available for the public to watch the debate from the gallery, it's very much a 'first come and first served' basis because of the fire regulations. So to try and keep people informed, I'm publishing my short speech in advance - it may change slightly - and I will be using Twitter (@simonmoores) to keep my followers up-to-speed on the progress of the debate in real time. and you can also see my Twitter updates on the side bar of this weblog.

Credit for all the hard work behind the arguments and research goes to a small team of hard-working volunteers who have sifted through local plans, national policies and planning regulations, seeking good arguments to support the position of the objectors. Thank you everyone, without you the application would have been rubber-stamped weeks ago!

"Chair and members of the committee.

This evening, you will be making a decision with a possibly wide-reaching and historical implication for the unique town and conservation area of Westgate on Sea.

You have been lobbied with the letters and emails of many hundreds of residents and two separate petitions with signatures now into the thousands.

Its been a privilege working with such a polarised community and I  wish to thank all those Westgate residents, from a broad range of skills and professions, who have worked so hard to study the legislation and its supporting national and local planning policy guidelines. Rather than make a long speech, I would like to leave you to your debate with six arguments, that I believe offer reasonable grounds to reject this application on planning grounds:

1. What determines this application is the Local Plan – Please don't be distracted by talk of The National Planning Policy Framework. (NPPF) This makes it is clear that current local plans apply.

2. This application does not comply with policies TC1 TC8. The need for new retail business must be explicitly shown and assessment of impact on local and district centres must be assessed. This has not been done and the application, by its own admission, is aimed at 'top up' shopping only. Where's the 'Need'?

3. Permission was given for 4 individual units. They complied with planning policies and general intentions which are for 'local stores' to be encouraged. This proposal is completely different. One large store. Calling it "TESCO Local" does not make it a 'local store'!

4. The building which blocks the morning light to the Sunny Side of the Street, markedly affects the Westgate Conservation Area. This was a planned design of Victorian shopping area with open and light filled areas. This building as you may have seen on the three-dimensional rendering from its plans, on my website, will form a 'tunnel effect', and 'build outs' will only enhance that. The size of this unit dominates and would completely change our street scene forever.

5. The design of the building is poor. It represents Tesco's standard 'house style' with pastiche 'add ons'. This cannot in any way be said to 'enhance' the street scene. The 'Canopy' element is a mockery. What will the Conservation Department of Thanet Council actually object to if it fails to object to this cheap PVC and plastic eyesore?

6. The traffic management plan is unreasonably optimistic as members will have witnessed during their site visit. It relies on the loading bay always being empty at 0700, delivery lorries parking within inches of the kerb, and (in practice) unenforceable restriction on non-articulated delivery vehicles only.

In summary then, this application does not, I believe, comply with the full policies TC1 (main town centres) or TC8 (district/local centres). It is misleading, misquotes the policies and compares the sleepy Victorian character of Westgate with central Manchester & Birmingham stores; completely unrealistic 'comparisons'. Can such an application even be trusted and I wonder if our Planning department even noticed?

Following our own Council Policy it is not ‘Unreasonable’ to reject an application with so many demonstrable flaws and which represents such a weight of public opposition. I would ask you to consider these and other powerful arguments and leave Westgate as its Victorian planners intended,  freeing us of the shadow of a Tesco hanging over Station Road


Hazel Soper said...

Perhaps start: "6 points...(1) and finish with starting blurb for when they cut you off!

Sorry to add, if you've time to read it:

Retail Use: The Planning Officer refers to the application F/TH/09/246.
The application granted was:"Change of use from goods and storage yard to A1 retail and erection of a two storey building comprising 4 blocks of retail units."
The application was not:"Change of use from goods and storage yard to A1 retail.(stop) Erection of a two storey building comprising 4 blocks of retail units."
The lack of a full stop, or break in the two clauses is significant. It was not a change of use to A1.
It was a change of use to A1 and erection of 4 blocks of retail units. It was a single, inter-dependant concept. Thus retail use is dependent on the erection of 4 units or as modified and agreed by planning consent.

09/246: I suggest that, when the Planning Committee approved the 09/246 application, there was no thought from anyone (including the applicant, and the Planning Committee) of a single retail unit, let alone a supermarket, or one larger than any unit in the existing Victorian parades. If there had, there would have been considerably more investigation and publicity.

I, perhaps like others, was accidentally misled to think it was the other side of the railway. I now see it was because the applicant was DJ Ellis Lockwoods Yard, The Grove CT8 8AS. Lockwoods Yard had had various applications, including craft workshops - which was the kind of use indicated by 09/246 and could be an asset here.My slip isnt relevant to planning, just means I would have studied a supermarket more.

Ref TC1 Need:
Ref Need:
Tesco Planning Statement 6.4 "A convenience store of this size" i.e. it is a convenience store.
TC8: All applications for retail development will be required to demonstrate the need for the proposed development. Need will be assessed as to evidence of existing commitments, residual demand and available expenditure.
Retail Need Assessment Study 2007 Thanet, Annex 3 Expenditure per retail zone £m,
Convenience: Area 64 Westgate-on-Sea 2007:23.8, 2011:24.5, 2016: 25.3,2021:26.3,2026:27.6 (i.e. £m convenience growth til 2026, hardly any here) compared to growth in Thanet elsewhere, eg: Thanet rural/central 50.8,52.3,54.4,56.8,59.5, or Ramsgate 55.7,57.6,59.5,62,65.2.
Meantime (same survey) Convenience Gross m2 Need is expected to increase for Margate from 530 (2011) to 1093 (2016) to 2362 (2026) and Thanet from 2289 to 11258 in the same period. People expect to find convenience on the doorstep. They will not come from all over Margate & Thanet to Westgate-on-Sea for it.

Same survey, Thanet Urban Westgate Area 64: Population by Retail Zone: 2007:16,160, 2011:16,000..expected to reduce to 15,800 by 2026. (There is no space between railway and sea for housebuilding. No new residents will come from the north.)

Westgate-on-Sea needs special economic conservation to preserve the Victorian parades it has.
Many units have great depth. There are empty, available and charity units in the centre. One unit is under open tender for sale on May 13. Victorian units need maintenance which could account for a tender sale.

Hazel Soper said...

Westgate-on-sea only has 6,660 inhabitants. The average household size is 2.7. It includes nursing homes which aren’t excessive users of convenience stores. I estimate half of the inhabitants are south of the railway, Canterbury Road, where they could demonstrate a more pressing convenience need, and, with the overall "Need for convenience shopping" growing elsewhere in Thanet, Westgate's viability and vitality is threatened. Thanet as a whole lacks economic & place (next to high density Tower Hamlets) resilience (BBC/Experian survey)

The Planning Officer considers it to be in scale. Well, yes, the building is a rough copy, so in scale, however its m2 is not in scale. Its 268-281m2 ground floor retail area is 15%* the size of the entire retail/hairdresser/restaurant retail Zone A for the entire Station Road + St Mildreds Roads parades (including the total retail depth of Co-op(193m2) and Edwards (172m2)) = 46 shops.
(Total Westgate frontline Stn Rd/St M retail m2 drawn from Valuation Office Agency = 5155m2 of which 2863 ground floor retail, *Zone A (front) 1478,Zone B-D (back of shop) 1019m2).
TC1 no unacceptable impact on viability and vitality
These are conservation parades. The Planning Committee and TDC have a responsibility and duty to ensure their future, and occupation. This is currently a viable shopping venue (perhaps only central Broadstairs is as viable in Thanet) of almost entirely Victorian shopping parades. One of the few poorer quality units is the single infill used as a pet shop opposite the conveniences. A viable mixed centre does need long-term occupants as the glue for the coming-going ventures where people sink in their life savings & may or may not survive. What would fill empty units?

The Tesco application (6.6) "It will enhance the vitality and viability of the surrounding centre by increasing the prospects of localised footfall" . Tesco has no "surrounding centre". - On 3 sides the "Surrounding Centre" is a garden centre, railway line, public conveniences, residential home, and homes. Elsewhere it is called an "adjacent" development. It is not central to Westgate parades, which is what is needed - it is "adjacent" without a surrounding centre. Tesco cannot argue that it will bring trade, and benefit other stores, but say that it doesn't matter if it removes trade, as that is not a land use matter.

A new "adjacent" (and opposite) parade, for 1 supermarket, will draw business away from a full balance of varied shops, which already provide a full convenience-plus offer. It cannot both argue that it will bring trade, and benefit other stores, but say that it doesn't matter if it removes trade, as that is not a land use matter.
Local economy:
Geography: Westgate-on-Sea is a similar island to Thanet itself. It is cut off by rail and sea. The Canterbury Road with traffic lights and humped bridge over the railway deters pedestrians. Despite that it has survived. It traps residents who use it well for local shopping. Surveys (such as ParishC review) point out it is well used by holidaymakers and visitors. It has beach-huts. The local shops need this added visitor revenue to keep Victorian buildings in good order. If a one-stop supermarket was built where Tesco wish, daytrippers could visit Westgate-on-sea, visit self-service Tesco and return to picnic in the new field WITHOUT CONTRIBUTING A SINGLE PENNY TO THE LOCAL ECONOMY. It would be the nearest shop to St Mildreds Bay, and take business from the cafes as well as the parades.

Simon Moores said...

Very good points, thank you and I'm editing to fit he time allowed. May include your last suggestion!

Hazel Soper said...

Living Conditions:
The Planning Officer doesn’t seem to understand what a QUIET place Westgate-on-Sea is.
"The site lies within a busy District Centre where a degree of noise already exists, whilst the site backs onto a railway line."
- No, he is wrong on "degree of noise" (or even to use the word "noise"* with regard to the current sounds of Station Road) and his conclusions don't follow. There is currently hardly any noise at all at this end of Station Road, it is practically silent in the evenings and at night. The railway is smooth line and slow speed here, so is quiet.
The existence of the railway means the roads are just service roads. It is the railway that keeps the neighbourhood quiet of traffic (you can only cross at St Mildreds/Bridge Rd). It is a quiet backwater location. There is no white noise to cover vehicle sounds and even quiet voices. Any new noise cuts the silence like a cymbal.
*A resident today said "I wouldn’t call it noise, there's the odd Nr8 bus, but it is all very slow".
Google directions map shows Station Road-Norman Road as the most direct route from the proposed Tesco towards Westbrook/Margate for cars(& pedestrians). Traffic is practically non existent along this route during the day, let alone in the evening, late evening, when it is rare to see a vehicle moving. If I walk the dog late, say to the Co-op before closing, I see no-one except perhaps youths hanging around by the station. It is really QUIET. (so late convenience shopping is more than adequately covered).

"Historically Station Road is the only area in Westgate which was planned for commerce and trade". Yes - but all recent development in Station Road is residential. The garage workshop in Station Road(East) (nextdoor to the nursing home, same size as Tesco plot) was replaced 2004 by a Terraced block of 9 homes (Victoria Mews). In Victoria Mews, eight of the master bedroom's (with Juliet balcony) are about 1metre from the pavement. I have lived there. I know the odd pedestrian talking below late evening is intrusive. The side elevation opposite echoes sounds.

Westgate Bay Avenue is an extremely busy road with many recorded accidents. Highways and planning have not assessed the impact on this road, particularly at Royal Esplanade and St Mildreds. which will be the major route (a) because the outlet-plus-existing 2800m2 retail cannot be sustained by 3300 households) (b) because the traffic lights deter access via Canterbury Road. Kent Highways whilst disagreeing with Tesco's tiny forecast, Highways say they have modelled for greater volume, but don't say what.
Living conditions: Reasonable Distance:
A Roxburgh Road house is the same distance from the plot as the length of the Tesco development. This is not a "reasonable distance" ref Planning Officer. Distance should be to Tesco scale.

TDC know Westgate's vulnerability. Why else would one of the few Saved Policies be Leaflet Nr 4 Conversion of shops to residential accommodation, external design - whose cover features a pretty line drawing of (ex-shop) Ethelbert Square Westgate-on-Sea. Do TDC want another Addington Street Ramsgate? (where a forlorn pub is up for sale) - Tesco Express like pub buildings (Swan & Sugarloaf South Croydon has just made good one). That is the future for convenience shopping.

Hazel Soper said...

The Core Strategy should be given "little weight"? - i.e. it is appropriate to give it some weight.
The original 4-unit plan was at least in line with the aspirations of the draft core strategy (which, though not yet implemented, at least indicates what we are aiming for): Attract and create additional employment to strengthen and diversify the local economy and employment base. This doesn’t diversify, the employment created displaces, it doesn't strengthen the local economy.
2. Address the high level of social deprivation suffered in parts of the district(So don’t damage Westgate)
3.Deliver a range of new homes (These wont be near enough Westgate for convenience shopping)
4.Promote awareness, responsible enjoyment, protection and sensitive enhancement of Thanet’s coast, rich historic heritage, townscape and diverse landscapes.(Yes, Westgate)

PS: The sustainability argument muddles convenience shopping with general retail, which Westgate-on-sea isn’t proven to offer in a big way.

Character & Appearance: The site is within W-o-S Conservation Area where special regard must be had for the impact new development has on the significance of the area. A bit of corrugated metal & good bricks doesn't fix the impact of a new development such as proposed. Might as well make it modern, as Victorian Westgate won’t survive alongside it.

Anonymous said...

Meh. Have you ever seen a Tesco that doesn't have any customers? If this is built, many of those who signed the petition would use it.

Hazel Soper said...

Exactly, so how will the Victorian parades not end up like Addington St?
There are sound Planning reasons for it not to be allowed. TC1: "need will be assessed according to evidence of existing commitments, residual demand and available expenditure." Kent/Thanets Retail Need Survey 2007 demonstrated no significant growth in convenience need for this area. TC1 No unacceptable impact of the vitality and viability.. there is.

V.FREWIN said...

as a local resident i am delighted that for once our council have listened to the people and have rejected Tesco's application. What a wonderfull victory for commonsense and for the voice of the people.

OldTimer said...

Having just 'happened upon' Westgate on Sea, on Saturday 11th May, both myself and my wife 'feel in love' with this little enclave, and decided within a few hours that we would sell our house in London and move to this enchanted town. What attracted us was the absence of 'major stores' that have made most towns in this country indistinguishable from one another.
Keep up the good work you are doing in opposing Tesco, you can count on our support.

With reference to "QUALITY", would the substitution of horsemeat for beef in beef products meet that criteria ???
Unfortunately when it comes to dealing with major chains like this, a cavalier attitude to the needs of the general public is the norm, until investigation reveals the truth, and then their PR department moves into attack mode, to bully, cajole, obfuscate and generally obscure the truth