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Empty pub row turns nasty
TESCO was accused of using “bullying” tactics to force Oxford City Council into approving a planned store in Abingdon Road.
The council deferred two planning applications from the retail giant on Thursday to build a store in the former Fox and Hounds public house.
Speaking at the meeting, Tesco’s planning consultant Matthew Roe said if the council rejected the applications, the company could build a store anyway.
He said: “The legal position with regards to the proposals is that the building as it stands can be used for retail without the need for planning permission.”
He said there was also no restriction on the opening hours, meaning Tesco could open a 24/7 store without planning permission.
West area planning committee chairman Oscar Van Nooijen, below, described the tactics as “bullying”, adding: “I am not convinced the line you are taking is a helpful strategy.”
The first application was to demolish the pub and construct a three-storey building, with the shop on the ground floor and a one-bedroom and two two-bedroom flats above. It would also include nine car parking spaces for the shop, as well seven for the flats.
This followed a previous application for a store, four flats and 16 retail car parking spaces, which Tesco lost at a public inquiry in July.
At Thursday night’s planning meeting, councillors said the new plans could be “dangerous”, with drivers needing to cross traffic to turn right into or out of the site.
Councillor Bob Price said: “It is a substantial improvement on the previous design and it is now much more attractive.
“But I would not like to grant permission for a facility that would add to danger of people who use it, and the danger would be much greater.”
Tesco’s second application was to use the current building, create a disabled access ramp and install a cash machine and signs.
Neighbour Andy Garlick, speaking at the meeting, said: “I am in full support of the proposals. I was aware of the application when I purchased my property 18 months ago. It will create better shopping for local residents”
Postmaster and owner of nearby Nisa Local Mohammad Afzal, who attended the meeting, said: “I am pleased the councillors stood up for themselves.”
After the Tesco decisions and as the agent for the next planning application was about to speak, Mr Van Nooijen said: “I am sure he will not try to bully us as the previous agent did.”
Tesco corporate affairs manager Simon Petar said: “Our proposals have attracted significant local support.
“We know many want the convenience of being able to walk to a local store.”
A date for the next time the plans will be discussed has yet to be set.