Yes, the decision by Tesco not to build a new superstore at Serpentine Road in Cleckheaton is disgraceful.
Twelve years have passed since the public inquiry into their failed St Peg Lane planning application, at which it was determined that there was a need for one new moderately-sized superstore in Cleckheaton and that Magellan’s alternative plan for an Asda store was preferable.
Six years later that plan was forced to be shelved when the local authority reneged on a previous agreement to sell land in their ownership to Magellan that was needed for the development.
The reason for that decision was a report by Signet Planning that favoured a new Tesco store on Serpentine Road over Magellan’s plan. By not selling land to Magellan, Kirklees Council allowed the Tesco plan to proceed.
Tesco should have treated the opportunity given to them by the local authority in the manner of a contractual agreement, and honoured it.
Their decision not to honour it means that a once economically viable area of Cleckheaton has unnecessarily suffered severe and irreversible degeneration. I do not see how Tesco can claim to be proud to serve the local community. By their actions in this matter they have shown nothing but disrespect for the community of Cleckheaton. That they have moved in a matter of two to three years from attempting to obtain consent for a store well in excess of what was appropriate, to deciding not to build a store at all, shows how entirely motivated they are by self interest. The local authority should have anticipated the possibility of this when they made their decision not to sell land to Magellan. Traders have claimed that a new store would have divided the town, but the town is divided in an equally unacceptable way now as a direct result of the aborted plans for a superstore – divided between an economically active town centre and an adjoining area of dereliction and wasteland that should be a source of shame for the town and the local authority.
To say that Tesco has held the town to ransom, in the past tense, and that we can now look at ways to move the town forward is, I believe, mistaken. The town will continue to be held to ransom because the land involved is not in public ownership.
Tesco may no longer have any intention of building a new superstore, but that does not mean they will be inclined to dispose of the land they acquired for that purpose.
Self- interest dictates that they will do whatever they can to prevent development by a retail competitor in Cleckheaton.
CHRISTOPHER L HAIGH
C L Developments