Prominent Harrogate businesses are calling for Tesco to officially withdraw plans for a new supermarket in the town after a high profile investigation listed the site as “on hold”.
Channel 4’s Dispatches programme, which looked into the fortunes of the “big four” supermarkets in the face of competition from budget stores, said its research showed Harrogate was one of many around the country which have been put on hold.
Tesco has never openly announced that it has put the site on hold. However, planning permission was granted in September 2011 and the firm declared the store would open its doors by Christmas 2013 – but work is yet to begin on the Skipton Road site.
Now, following the Dispatches investigation, members of Harrogate Chamber of Trade and Commerce are calling for the business to officially pull out, rather than leaving the town in limbo with the stalled development. They believe the issues raised during the planning process have still not been resolved.
Chamber Vice-President Peter Jesper, managing director of town centre retailer Jespers, said: It is almost three years since Tesco was given the green light for a new superstore at New Park and, for many of us, the inactivity and lack of news suggested the issue had gone away.
Unfortunately, that is not the case. The Chamber has taken a keen interest in the application from the outset and raised a number of very serious concerns about the impact on local businesses, as well as safety in the area.
This is a former gasworks site, which the Health and Safety Executive initially said was unsuitable for development because of the pipes running through it. However, once planning permission was granted, the HSE refused to intervene to enforce its own safety advice.
The New Park site is also located next to two major roads which are already heavily congested, and there is evidence of protected species living in the surrounding area. We still strongly believe that this is not a suitable place for a new superstore.
The debate has been raised again after Aldi was granted permission to open a new shop at the former Dreams site on the Oak Beck retail park – directly opposite the Tesco site.
Mr Jesper added: One of the major reasons that some people were in favour of the Tesco plans was to bring a supermarket to the north side of town. The arrival of Aldi will go a long way to answering this need and give residents in that area easy access to an affordable store, rather than having to travel across town.
However, our research shows that adding Tesco to the mix will have a very serious detrimental impact on the town centre. Harrogate, as the gateway to the Dales, has an identity and image of a unique retail experience in pleasant surroundings; we believe this would be damaged by another aggressive supermarket opening on the edge of Harrogate, resulting in the loss of many valued local businesses, along with the employment they provide and the outstanding service they offer local people.
As part of the planning permission, Tesco was required to make a modest contribution to improving the shopping environment in the town and support a new bus service linking Bilton and Jennyfields with the town centre. However, this seems a pitiful payback for the business they will draw away from the centre.
The bottom line is that despite creating some welcome local employment opportunities, Tesco’s profits from this scheme will be taken from Harrogate and in the main lost to our community to the detriment of us all.
Tesco spokesperson Mark Thomas said: We had paused our work in Harrogate to make sure there was no disruption to the Tour de France and that the event could be as successful as possible.
We’re now back on track and are hoping to begin construction toward the end of this year.
Our store will regenerate the former gasworks site, bring hundreds of jobs and improve choice for local shoppers.
We’ll be investing substantially to improve the highways network in Harrogate and our proposals will make way for enhancements to the town centre.
We keep our plans under review to ensure we are proposing what is best for our customers and the community in Harrogate and if there are any changes we will be sure to provide a further update.
Tesco have clarified their position:
- Our Harrogate proposals are not on hold. We had paused them in order to ensure the Tour de France could take part without any potential disruption.
- We are liaising with the highways authority on the works requires to complete the highways improvements.
- Our current time-scales are to begin work on the highways and the store toward the end of this year. We keep our timescales under review and if there is any change we will be sure to inform the community
Harrogate Chamber represents businesses in the Harrogate area and liaises with developers, local authorities and other organizations on their behalf.
It is keen to work with businesses which are affected by Tesco or any other issue in the Harrogate District. For more information, visit www.harrogatechamber.org