Store wars row erupts over cost of Tesco hearing

TESCO MILNGAVIE 1.12.09 PICTURE BY JAMIE FORBES
TESCO MILNGAVIE 1.12.09 PICTURE BY JAMIE FORBES

MILNGAVIE MSP Des McNulty has slammed the Scottish Government for allowing Tesco’s appeal to go to a public hearing at the cost of £16,000.

Mr McNulty asked SNP planning minister Keith Brown to reveal the cost of Tesco’s appeal against the decision to refuse the planning application for a larger store in Milngavie.

He said: “I don’t think this should have gone to a hearing due to the strength of public feeling against the size of the proposed store.

“Tesco was refused permission by East Dunbartonshire Council and if they had been prepared to scale back their plans they might have been granted permission for a new store, although local people wanted changes in the design and positioning to be considered too.

“But Tesco was encouraged to press ahead with their plans when, instead of rejecting the appeal, Scottish ministers sent it to the reporters inquiry unit.

“It is outrageous that the cost of the hearing is being met entirely from the public purse and Tesco won’t have to pay a penny towards it.

“If people in a community feel strongly that a planning application is completely unacceptable and their elected representatives have taken note of their views and refused an application, on what basis do ministers and reporters have the right to overturn this decision. Where’s the democracy in that?

“Any decision now reached is on the authority of the planning minister, someone who knows nothing about this area, its needs or the feelings of local people.”

However SNP MSP Gil Paterson has accused Mr McNulty of political opportunism by raising this question in parliament.

He doesn’t believe that the public should be denied the right of an inquiry over planning decisions such as this.

Mr Paterson said: “Once again the hypocrisy of Mr McNulty is staggering. He was told by Keith Brown that planning inquiries were part of a democratic process which had been established for many years and had, in fact, been set up by the Labour Party when Des McNulty was a planning minister.

“Not once was this process dispensed with when he was in power, but he is suggesting that a special case be made of this issue, which clearly amounts to political posturing.

“You go down a very dangerous route when you allow ministers to decide on local planning issues without allowing the public a say on whether they are for or against.”

The decision of the hearing was due to be announced on Monday however it is now not expected until the end of this week or next week.

MP Jo Swinson said: “I have been told that this delay is due to the complexity of the case.

“While it would be preferable for the Reporter to deliver a decision as soon as possible, it is more important that he delivers the right verdict, and that Tesco’s appeal is refused.

“Full consideration must be given to the implications of Tesco’s massive expansion plans on the future of Milngavie, and the genuine concerns of local people throughout this process.”