Monday, 27 August 2012

Whittlesey Supermarkets - The Sequential Test

One of the critical aspects of the decision on Wednesday is what is called the sequential test.   This is, basically, an assessment of sites for retail development that is required under the National Planning Policy Framework and was a crucial part of PPS4, which is the policy predecessor of the NPPF for retail sites.   It is important people understand that the sequential test is there to protect town centres, and there is some evidence that it has had some success in that.

The sequential test is about finding the best location for supermarkets, it requires that developers and policies look at town centre locations first, edge of town next and then locations out of town.

As far as Whittlesey is concerned, the only potential edge of centre location was the Syers Lane site – which was refused planning permission, and it is difficult to see how the issues which were used to refuse permission could be overcome (although the decision was, surprisingly, never tested at appeal).  So when the Sainsbury and Tesco supermarkets along Eastrea Road came forward (let’s ignore Station Road for now!!) an assessment would have been needed around the sequential test.

In the current situation, it seems that the Tesco site along Eastrea Road passes the sequential test, whilst the Sainsbury site fails; this is where I am struggling a bit.  The access to these two sites is from virtually the same point on the A605.  Having re-examined the plans this afternoon I realised that, because of the way the two schemes are laid out there is a difference of about 70m between the pedestrian accesses for Sainsbury and Tesco (this is crudely measured – but effectively, the distance from Cemetery Road roundabout to the front door of the proposed Tesco is about 1.36km via the pedestrian route, and for Sainsbury it is 1.43km).  That is based on the access plans submitted by Tesco – if the Larkfleet access is used then Tesco will be slightly further away than that 1.36km (as I said this is very crudely measured – but whatever the detailed measurements, the difference is minimal).

Whilst I have always said that the impact on the Town Centre is important, I am struggling to see how that difference of just 70m makes any meaningful difference. Then think about the benefits I talked about yesterday and about how Sainsbury and the Country Park could draw people into the Town with the right sort of link advertising and a package to encourage Town Centre shopping (which they are offering).  From what I can see it is only Sainsbury that are offering a half hourly bus service from Whittlesey Town Centre to their store – that in itself will provide an incentive for people to visit the Town Centre on their way to shopping at Sainsbury.  Which do you think is more important – 70metres, or a better package to protect the Town Centre?

Here is what Para 27 of the National Planning Policy Framework says about the sequential test:  “When considering edge of centre and out of centre proposals, preference should be given to accessible sites that are well connected to the town centre.  Applicants and local planning authorities should demonstrate flexibility on issues such as format an scale”

The more I look at these two proposed sites the more the recommendation about the sequential test confuse me; the requirement for the test is laid out under a section of the NPPF called “ensuring the vitality of town centres”. In my opinion, the question that needs to be asked on Wednesday, is which of the applications is most likely to ensure the vitality of Whittlesey Town Centre, I’m pretty sure that’s what the courts will look at.


  1. I so wish I could be present at Wednesday's meeting. Apart from all the 'debates' that will be going on it all sounds so interesting. Good luck with it all.

  2. What is it about Supermarket planning that WHITTLESEY people fail to understand Harrier developments have permission to build a Supermarket in your Town done thing! they can & they will build in Station Road when & if they please why are you condemning them for that? they submitted a planning application fair & square for this and it was FENLAND DISTRICT COUNCIL that approved the application. Now we have established that... There has been two recent reports for this matter and it has been made very clear that Whittlesey CAN NOT SUPPORT two food stores due to impact on the Town Centre and the roads.
    So it is an obviouse NO to two stores! unless you want your town to suffer. Now we have established that... Do people want a Supermarket on Station Road most don't due to the railway crossing, So forget Whiteacre Management who are clouding the water & let Harrier development move thier consent & give you a store in a more convenient postion, or this will all end up in court!

  3. Sainsbury store please .Best option all round and a bonus of a country park is just what we need .

  4. Ref court. Whichever option is chosen this is likely to go to court. Planning committee tomorrow have to make what they think is the best decision. That means looking at the argument Tesco make in light of the report that has been provided and looking at the impact that a 2nd failing superstore along Station Road would have on the Town Centre.

  5. Cll Curtis Why is it likely to go to court? Harrier has a permission to build a store on Station Road the report you requested said Whittlesey cannot support two stores so at this stage it is Harrier to build in Station Road, there is a more convenient site Eastrea road so it is obviouse the Station road consent must be allowed to move to Station Road. Just one point what has all of this got to do with Tesco and Sainsburys? this is about planning matters?
    Whiteacre Management have come along in late stages of this and want to build a second store in Whittlesey, the report you requested says this will not be good for the impact on our town so why are you supporting it?

  6. I suspect Sainsbury will question the principle of quashing a planning permission, they will question whether it is right to make a case based on the impact of two stores on the town centre when one of them will be unviable, they will question the application of the sequential test, they will challenge the lack of focus on the benefits of a country park.

    Tesco would challenge based on their case.

    Both have their reasons. I have said for some time that this will end up in court, that is why the decision has to be robust. I am supporting Sainsbury because it is what Whittlesey people want and, in my opinion, it is the best planning decision.

  7. Just to reinforce what I have said about quashing of a planning permission - I have just had a letter from a representative of Co-op that says this (fallback is their term and probably the right one for quashing:

    "For the purpose of planning matters, the term ‘fallback position’ is applicable to an alternative consent existing on the application site itself, rather than somewhere else. In this instance, the Tesco application seeks to revoke by legal agreement an existing consent on land some 1.4 miles from this site. NJL Consulting has received legal advice on this matter, which confirms that the fallback scenario cannot be used in the manner in which it has been by the Council to determine the appropriateness of this application.

    Therefore, the ‘fallback position’ for Eastrea Road simply does not exist."

  8. so assuming that Harrier build their store on Station Road, I'm sure that Tesco will then JR any consent given to Sainsbury? this will still leave Whittlesey with a store on Station Road thatwe do not wanted and a costly court case for Fenland district Council? with respect are you not worried you are adding to the prospects of this matter going to court? I understand you are supporting the people but at what cost?

  9. If you look and see what I am saying, it is far more than just speaking up for Whittlesey. What I am trying to evidence is that the weight of planning evidence supports the Sainsbury store,I have deliberately avoided just saying "I support the people". The point about these applications is what I have said all along, irrespective of what is decided tomorrow, it will probably end up in court, and that is not about what I have done or anyone else, it is about the fact that there are big bucks invested in both the Sainsbury and Tesco options. As I understand it, Tesco will have to JR the Sainsbury consent before a decision is issued, they will not be able to do so after Station Road is built.

  10. With regards to your comments on August 27th regarding the access points to the two superstores being virtually at the same point. This is not the case. If you look at the plan printed in the current issue of the Peterborough Telegraph it is quite plain to see that the Tesco access roundabout is directly in front of the shop and car park. The Sainsbury access roundabout is however further eastwards along the A605 and then once into the Sainsbury area, the shop lies even further eastwards away from the town centre. Sainsburys therefore is slap bang in the middle of the whole area between Whittlesey and Eastrea. The Tesco site on the other hand is on the edge of Whittlesey housing. Building Sainsburys as indicated will leave a large void of land to be used for what I ask. It can only be for more housing I think. Well I can speak for a lot of people that live in that edge of town housing...they do not want housing built there which will overlook their gardens and take away their privacy. Building Tescos in the edge of town plot will ensure this doesn't happen and will leave a large area to be sensibly developed for all the people of Whittlesey and Eastrea. The whole issue surely is not a battle between Tesco and Sainsbury but is one of position. If the same position was offered to the two stores, then it would become a battle, but for now it is the position that is the most important. Unfortunately for Sainsbury I think Tesco has the best position, but if Sainsbury had the same plot then I would be supporting them.

    1. You seem to conclude that because the distances between the stores and the town centre for either supermarket are very close, neither is less suitable for the location. I don't believe this is the case. The Tesco site on Eastrea Road is appropriate because it adjoins the existing development arae boundary. Sainsburys, however, does not, and as a result is contrary to planning policy. Coupled with the country park the development as a whole also encroaches on Eastrea. It should be refused on the grounds that building it in that location would be 'unsustainable'. This does not mean to say that I think the Eastrea Road Tesco should be approved because my preferred location for a supermarket remains on Station Road. At the end of the day I think it would be fairer to refuse both Eastrea Road applications and let Tesco build it there because they already have planning permission. And in terms of appearance a supermarket will fit in better in an industrial estate than on Eastrea Road, between housing and green land. Yes the Station Road crossing is a drawback but if the people of Whittlesey are that desperate for a supermarket, they will use it! After all, the time they will be waiting at the gates will be a lot less than the time that they would take to travel elsewhere to shop. The Roger Tym report stated that the waiting time at peak time is 2 mins 11 seconds - compare this to a 10-15 minute journey to Peterborough, Ramsey or March. I think it is a shame that as a small, unspoilt market town we are destined to have at least one supermarket, because frankly, even just the one store is bound to have a negative impact of town centre trading. But as we have to have one, I feel it should be Tesco on Station Road.

  11. The distance between the two proposed roundabouts is minimal. But where the Sainsbury site is Eastwards, the actual store is directly adjacent to the A605. The Tesco store is set back at the south end of the site - that is why there is virtually no difference in the distance from Cemetery Road roundabout to to front door or of either Tesco or Sainsbury. The truth about housing in Whittlesey is that, if as the Core Strategy suggests, Whittlesey is to have 1100 new houses, and it has an economic strategy to deliver the business growth that is needed to make that housing growth growth sustainable, then housing and businesses are going to have to be put on green spaces and in areas where there is going to be opposition. I would also argue that brownfield land or greenfield, Whittlesey could not cope with any more housing without highways infrastructure growth.

  12. To be honest councillor I don't think you know what to argue about next, you have made this matter very personal and complicated indeed I don't want a supermarket at all I am happy with the coop but to see what this is doing to you is very worrying you have stood down from the final voting you are arguing about housing, store location, Tesco, the Roads, resident letters,my goodness have you the time for other duties I think this is getting obsessive behaviour on your part. and I don't suppose you will print this.

  13. I do not think that it is fair to persecute councillor Curtis in this manner on one issue, if you look not just at the present situation but at his track record it is obvious that he has always advocated what is best for Whittlesey, I am told that over 200 people supported the present issue , they cannot all be wrong.
    This will be my only post ,heaven calls.

  14. Actually, I think you should post more often!! But, seriously - the debate on here is not a problem for me - it is great to see Whittlesey people engaging in debate.