Tuesday, 1 November 2011


Sedgemoor Labour Group was the first of the Political parties to engage with the Tesco consultation process tonight as the Superstores consultants were invited to put their case to their meeting at Bridgwater House.

The Labour Group increased their share of the seats on Sedgemoor District Council at this years Local elections in the Bridgwater area after a strongly fought campaign against the closure of the Sedgemoor Splash and yet another supermarket coming to the town.  The Tesco development had been steamrollered through by Sedgemoor Council's Tory majority group - 4 of whose members in the town lost their seats.

Ian Thorn (Lib Dem candidate
turned PR guru)
 Tesco's newly employed consultants, former LibDem parliamentary candidate for Bridgwater (2001) turned PR man 'Ian Thorn' and Emma Heesom, who has only been with Tescos for 10 weeks yet is their Corporate Affairs manager, said that Tescos would regenerate the town centre and prevent 'leakage' of shoppers to other towns. They said that 66% of the people they had spoken to supported the proposal with only 31% against. However they admitted that the consultation thus far had shown that the public were massively unhappy with the loss of green space due to the sale of the Brewery field , the premature loss of the Splash swimming pool in order to facilitate the deal ,the potential damage to the town centre and the widespread belief that there was enough supermarkets in the town already.
Cllr Ian Tucker
"Calls for a public meeting"

Labour councillor for Dunwear Ian Tucker confronted them about the destructive effect of supermarkets in other town centres and cited Shepton Mallet and Yeovil . Ian said “Three years ago SDC were quick to level the splash and now it seems that the Splash area wasn't even required!” Asking the Consultants whether Tescos would agree to a public meeting he was told that they had “given 2 days to public consultation as agreed with SDC and that was enough.”

Group leader cllr Mick Lerry (Victoria) said Bridgwater's most recent experience with a supermarket promising regeneration was ASDA which had in fact led to decline and made no linkage. He felt Tescos could be a 'one stop shop' which we didn't want. He further stressed the need for a Local Labour force Agreement. Mick said “we need to engage with the next stage. We have to go with the section 106 agreement and the planning process to see how best we can affect this and we need to put the emphasis on SDC to see if in fact they really do support business in the town centre”.

Cllr Julian Taylor (Eastover) said that his concern was the leakage claims were not comparable examples and he had long ago proved that what was claimed to be leakage was in fact simple shopping elsewhere that wouldn't be done in Bridgwater. . Julian, who was concerned about the validity of the consultation process,said “ Tescos aim is clearly to increase it's market share at the expense of others and in this case that would be town centre traders. Job numbers brought in would be equal to jobs lost. Furthermore, Ian Thorn said that the council needed to carry out a retail impact assessment, so far the council has not agreed to this. “

Cllr Dave Loveridge (Eastover) said at County Council that he had been offered condolences by councillors from other areas of Somerset that Tesco had moved into and asked what lessons had been learnt from Stokes Croft in Bristol.

Cllr Reg Winslow (Fairfax) requested that Tesco produce artist impressions of the building from ground level and expressed concerns about the poor visual impact such a large building could have on what is a prime town centre site.

He also expressed concerns about proposed traffic calming measures in Northgate and suggested that the increased volume of traffic coupled with the calming measures could lead to problems of more traffic congestion in Bridgwater.

He enquired about opening hours, and was told they are going to be the same as adjacent stores although 24 hour opening was a possibility in the future.

"We're being Shafted"
Cllr Adrian Moore

Cllr Brian Smedley said as Westover ward member his concerns were for the nearby residents whose properties were perilously close to the site and asked what would be done to prevent light pollution and nuisance from 24 hour service vehicles in close proximity.

Cllr Adrian Moore (Hamp) , who chaired the meeting said he felt the town was "..being shafted" and that “... it was a done deal and it looked like we were going to end up with a Tescos no matter what !”
Cllr Leigh Redman (Dunwear) said “ We have to encourage local residents and traders to engage with the consultation. We have to stress the Local Labour Force Agreement, learn the lessons from the failings of the Asda development and continue to push the importance of High street regeneration.”

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