Success at the High Court – Permission to challenge Secretary of State’s approach

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On March 27th the High Court granted permission to proceed to challenge the Secretary of State’s approach as to whether there should have been an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) of the proposal to develop a Tesco superstore at Arlington Square, Margate.

Permission has been granted on 3 grounds:
1. The Secretary of State has sliced up what is really a much larger project of the Arlington site and surrounding areas.
2. He failed to take into account the cumulative environmental effects of the associated regeneration in the area.
3. Whether he downplayed the evaluation of ‘likely significant environmental effects’ by simply regarding the area in an ‘urban context.

The Secretary of State, the developer and Thanet District Council if it wishes (unlikely) have 35 days from April 27th to submit further evidence to the Court as to why the Secretary of State’s position was, in fact, lawful.

The matter will then be fixed for a final hearing. This could be before the end of July 2013 but is likely to be in the autumn.

About 4 weeks before the final hearing we submit further argument as to why permission should be quashed.

In the meantime, the Secretary of State has yet to determine the developer’s appeal following the inquiry held in November 2012.

Representing the Secretary of State was Rupert Warren QC.
Representing the developer, Metropolitan Property Realizations (aka Freshwater) was Christopher Katkowski QC.
Representing the Claimant, Louise Oldfield, was Paul Stookes from Richard Bucton Environmental and Public Law.

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What is the future for Margate Seafront? Tesco expansion plans halted across Kent

Jacobs seafront visual 1-1
Not heard about the plans for a more pedestrian friendly Margate seafront?

It could be because the authorities don’t talk about it anymore.
It was referred to by KCC’s Highways Officer in the Arlington Tesco Planning Report from June 2012 as the ‘approved scheme’. The scheme is referred to as  ‘The Jacobs’ Report’. You might have trouble finding it on KCC or TDC’s website. So we have a handy copy here on the documents section of our website to download here.

The Jacobs’ Report was the culmination of over a year’s public consultation in Margate. Many of us attended workshops for hours. It was the vision for what Margate seafront could and should be after Turner Contemporary opened. Here are some pictures from the report.

Now the plans for the mega Tesco look in doubt, it’s time to start looking at a sustainable alternative.

jacobs seafront visual 2 Jacobs seafront visual 1

In other news, it’s been reported that Tesco are halting their expansion plans across the entire county:

Tesco expansion plans halted across Kent By Nick Ames, Monday, April 29, 2013 http://www.kentnews.co.uk/news/tesco_expansion_plans_halted_across_kent_1_2166314

“Plans for large-scale developments across the county by supermarket giant Tesco are in disarray. A combination of public opinion that “enough is enough” when it comes to the superstore along with poor results from the company itself have halted projects in Thanet and Swale. And other developments are facing widespread opposition from residents who say they will drive small stores out of business, leaving “empty shops like broken teeth along the high street”. Further objectors say the superstores ruin the look of an area and create huge increases in traffic. Public opinion forced out Tesco plans for a new Express store in Westgate-on-Sea, with 12 members of Thanet District Council voting no – and none in favour. Cllr Peter Campbell put forward the motion to refuse the planning application as it “is not in keeping and is harmful to the Westgate conservation area and location.” He said: “The store would have been on a very narrow strip of land and it would have made the area seem very claustrophobic. It was in the wrong place, in the wrong style and had the wrong design. There was a lot of vocal public opinion against the proposal which did not fit in with Victorian Westgate.” A second 82,000 sq ft 24-hour store has also been proposed for Margate seafront but following opposition is now the subject of a review by local government minister Eric Pickles. Louise Oldfield of campaign group Friends of Arlington Margate said: “The size of the store would badly hit existing local businesses and the amount of traffic – 18,000 extra vehicles on a Friday and Saturday – would halt plans for a part-pedestrianised seafront introduced to promote a café culture and attract tourists.” Independent Thanet councillor Ian Driver said: “Tesco has more than enough of a presence here. There are shops at Westwood Cross, in Ramsgate, Broadstairs and Cliftonville. People I have been speaking to feel Tesco should not be hoovering up properties and driving local businesses to the wall. Enough is enough” Tesco has a part stake – believed to be around 40 per cent – in the coffee chain Harris + Hoole which want to open an outlet in the former Clinton’s card store in Whitstable. Planning permission for a change of signage has been granted, but no further applications are necessary as the site is already designated for retail. Objection has come from Save Whitstable Shops which says the chain is “a wolf in sheep’s clothing” because of the superstore’s stake. Campaigner Brian Hitcham said: “This town has built its reputation on independent stores and people will be fooled into thinking they are going into a small, independently run, coffee shop when in fact that is not the case at all.” Campaigners have called for a boycott of the shop when it does open. Tesco itself shelved plans for a £110 million store at Milton Creek, Sittingbourne, and extension of the Forum Shopping Centre, which it owns. Poor nationwide sales and problems with getting planning approval after the Highways Agency raised concerns over traffic congestion were cited as the reasons behind the decision. Now Swale Borough Council says it wants to hear what Tesco – as landowners – are proposing instead. Director of regeneration Pete Raine said: “We are aware of Tesco’s decision not to proceed with their plans, which does not surprise us given the profound changes in market conditions over the past few years. “It will be up to Tesco as landowners to bring forward alternative proposals for the site in due course, and we look forward to working with them to ensure we maximise the contribution of this strategic site to the regeneration of Sittingbourne town centre. We are relieved that the uncertainty surrounding this proposal has now ended, and that we can in future look at the site with a fresh pair of eyes. “Meantime, we will continue to progress our plans for development south of the railway line with our partners Spirit of Sittingbourne, and we are confident the Tesco decision will not throw those off course. In this context, we welcome Tesco’s continued commitment to their store in the Forum.” The Swale project is one of more than 100 such schemes across the UK abandoned by Tesco in the wake of its worst ever fall in profits and a disastrous attempt to break into the US convenience store market. Uncertainty also surrounds its activities in the west of the county. Tesco has also bought the leaseholds of small businesses on a parade of shops in Paddock Wood and has indicated plans for a new store, while another development project has been earmarked for Edenbridge. However both schemes are still in the planning stage and a number of objections have been voiced by people concerned about their impact on small businesses. In a statement Tesco said: “We are very proud to serve thousands of customers every day through our Kent stores, providing a vital service for the many local people who choose to shop with us. “We continue to offer our customers the best of Tesco products and the best possible service. We know our stores bring shoppers to local areas and are pleased other local businesses can take advantage of the customers we attract.” But Steve Dawe of the Kent Green Party said: “The constant expansion of supermarket giants is killing smaller shops. Research shows that after five years of operation a superstore achieves a net loss within a five mile radius of 250 jobs by eliminating small businesses, such as butchers, grocers and coffee shops – all the things that give variety to a town. “What is left is empty shops like broken teeth along the high street.””