Asda proposed a 6,131m2 food store, of which 2,415m2 would be used for the sale of convenience goods. Tesco proposed a 5,564m2 store, of which 2,212m2 would be used for the sale of food and convenience goods. Both lay in out-of-centre locations. The council argued that both schemes should be permitted to meet a quantitative and qualitative need and maintained that they would not undermine town centre vitality and viability. This approach was criticised by Somerfield Stores, which alleged that there was insufficient need.
The inspector recognised that a significant proportion of the population travelled to stores further afield. This increased the need to travel and was socially divisive, she held. Retaining more of the spending power in the town's catchment area was desirable and either store would be capable of clawing back lost expenditure, she reasoned.
She expressed doubts about the stores' ability to effect substantial changes in the way people shopped and to this extent found that the full extent of the quantitative need was not fully proven. However, she agreed that there was a strong qualitative need for additional and improved shop provision. A large and modern store would provide additional choice and competition, she held.
She agreed that the impact on the town centre would lead to readjustment in trading patterns, which would be greater for shops selling similar goods such as a Co-op store. However, despite the lack of scope for linked trips, she judged the overall impact acceptable.
Both applications involved employment land. In the inspector's opinion, the Asda proposal conflicted more fundamentally with policy since it lay on a planned business park. In contrast, the Tesco proposal involved the redevelopment of a predominantly vacant industrial site. The secretary of state endorsed her conclusion that the balance of advantage lay in approving the Tesco application.
DCS Number 100-064-444
Inspector Mary O'Rourke; Inquiry