Appeal Hearing 17th Oct 2013 – Brief Overview

Just a few quick lines about today’s appeal hearing for anyone unable to attend:

There were several hours of round-table discussion lead by planning inspector Isobel McCretton.  Taking part in the discussion were representatives from the FPAG, RBWM, Thames Valley Police and CgMs (Tesco’s planning consultants).  Isobel McCretton then made a visit to the Golden Harp site.  A decision is expected by the first week in December, possibly sooner.

Thank you to: our team of Mark, Kobie, Ian and James; Claire Stretton and Victoria Gibson from the borough; Thames Valley Police; the 50 or so residents who attended the hearing.

Appeal Hearing 2013-10-17

Appeal against Asset of Community Value listing REFUSED

FANTASTIC NEWS – Tesco, Central Midlands Estates and their lawyers Shoosmiths have suffered another defeat at the hands of the mighty FPAG. Their attempt to appeal against the listing of the Golden Harp as an Asset of Community Value (ACV) has been refused by the Royal Borough.

“The result of this review is that the Property should remain listed as an ACV in that the test in section 88(2) of the Act has been satisfied by the Nominating Body [FPAG].”

Congratulations to everyone involved!

The FPAG is working hard preparing for the other appeal hearing (regarding planning permission). Don’t forget to book the day off on Thursday 17 October 2013 – we really need as many people as we can get to attend the hearing (10:00am Town Hall).

Swept Path Analysis of a Tesco 12.6m articulated vehicle

Here is the Swept Path Analysis sent to us by Beth Greenhouse of Tesco after our telephone conference on the 29th July 2013.

Swept Path Analysis 2013-05-29
(click the image to enlarge, or view the original document here)

The view on the left shows a 12.6m (41 ft) articulated lorry travelling north up Courthouse Road and turning into the existing Golden Harp car park entrance. The unloading position is as shown in the middle of the car park.

The view on the right shows the lorry doing a u-turn in the car park and exiting by turning right out of the car park and heading towards the junction to Furze Platt Road.

We invite you to draw your own conclusions and then perhaps write to Tesco, Theresa May, your Ward Councillors and the local press to let them know what you think of this proposal.

Press Release – 26th Aug 2013

FURZE PLATT ACTION GROUP (FPAG) – SAVE THE HARP – 26 AUGUST 2013

The Golden Harp, Furze Platt, Maidenhead, used to belong to Enterprise Inns,  a debt-laden Pubco that runs down many of its pubs so that it can claim they are unviable and close them to sell as domestic properties (which requires planning consent for change of use), or as a supermarket which is permitted development under our archaic planning law. This has enabled supermarkets (especially Tesco) to open many a convenience store at the expense of an often much loved local pub.

The Golden Harp in Furze Platt, a Victorian Village conservation area about a mile from Maidenhead town centre, suffered this treatment recently. In December 2012, hoardings appeared round it, and shortly after this it was gutted. Tesco submitted to Maidenhead Development Control Panel six applications for what they termed ‘minor works’, including punching a large hole in the front of the pub to add shop doors, and an ATM on the side of the original 1889 stable block.

The Furze Platt Action Group (FPAG) formed to oppose Tesco’s plans, and these first six applications were refused by the planning authority at a packed Town Hall, in March 2013, mainly on the grounds that they did not improve or enhance the conservation area. A survey showed that 89% of local residents did not want a Tesco, but wanted to retain their community pub instead. A full Council Meeting on 23 April voted 48-1 to recommend to the Development Control Panel that an Article 4 direction be considered, which would require a full planning application for change of use. This was subsequently felt by the Panel to be too late (and potentially costly to taxpayers and individual councillors, who we believe were informed they might be personally liable if a compensation claim resulted).

Tesco appealed against the refusal of the first set of applications, and the date for this hearing is 17 October 2013. They also submitted another set of very similar proposals, which were all again refused. This time one of the councillors had commissioned a traffic report from Thames Valley Police, carried out at the morning rush hour, which showed the dangers the increased traffic would pose to children passing by to three local schools. Formally this could not be considered, as the applications were not related to a change of use which is already permitted. The FPAG have challenged Tesco to put in a full planning application if the development is as safe as they claim, so that the traffic report can be considered, and everyone can then abide by the decision. Tesco have consistently refused to meet FPAG, and only communicate via their corporate affairs manager, who was instructed by senior officials to say only ‘we will go ahead with this store’. Their Chief Executive and Chair refuse to answer correspondence, despite the involvement of Theresa May MP.

The Golden Harp was listed by the Council as an Asset of Community Value (ACV). However, Central Midland Estates (CME), the owners of the freehold, from whom Tesco have leased the Golden Harp, have appealed against the Council’s listing of the Golden Harp as an ACV. The hearing is expected within the next few weeks. It’s a good job FPAG are an energetic group, supported by the local CAMRA branch and others. There’s no sign of weakening under the pressure.  The battles continue.

Report of telephone call with Tesco – 29th July 2013

The ‘meeting’ was arranged following communications: FPAG with Theresa May with Tesco.  Tesco could not meet face-to-face so we had a dial-in discussion on 29th July 2013.  The FPAG was represented by Jim, Ryan and Mark.  Tesco was represented by Beth Greenhouse, Corporate Affairs Manager.

We started the meeting saying that we are not anti-Tesco; in fact they have provided some locations that are positive – a village where the pub was poor and had closed is now the village store; Prestatyn has now brought life back to a dying high street.  We referred to the national planning laws that allow a pub to be converted to a store but suggested that, as with clothes, one size does not fit all.  In this case, the change does not fit the Golden Harp!

Below is a summary of the key points that were covered:

FPAG: How does Tesco select a site?

Tesco: They have a site research team that look closely at the area and analyses shopping habits and the types of people who would shop at a convenience store.  It is not for the main shop, it is simply for topping up bread, salad etc.  On-line shoppers would also use the store to top-up.  Ensure they have a ‘delivery solution’ [which actually meant: can they get their truck into the site, or deliver from the road (10 trucks per day!)]

FPAG: Re: danger for the school children…

Tesco: Deliveries will not be made at peak hours. Tesco has stores close to schools.

FPAG: There will be a single entry/exit on Courthouse Road.

Tesco: It would be safe to open the entrance on the A308. We have a diagram that shows how the trucks could unload.

FPAG: Would you send us a copy?

Tesco: Yes.

[The FPAG have since received this diagram, and we question the viability of a 40ft vehicle being able to make the turning circle when the car park has vehicles and people moving around. Vehicles exiting will block the entrance for the trucks entering from Courthouse, and they will probably block both sides of Courthouse.]

Tesco: This will be a successful store.

FPAG: How do you measure success – you make a lot of money?

Tesco: No, lots of customers use the store! I have had lots of people calling me to support the store.

FPAG: How many?

Tesco: They are frightened to say that they support, because the community would go against them.

FPAG: How many?

Tesco: We asked if they would speak at the Council meeting but they would not [see above].

FPAG: How many? We can give you the addresses of all the people who said ‘no’ to the petition because we respect their decision and did not want to call on them again. How many, Mark? 22.

Tesco: Yes, it is not many people; not as many as you have.

FPAG: How did you carry out the consultation?

Tesco: We spoke to the neighbours.

FPAG: How many houses from the site did you talk to? I am approx. 12 doors away and I had nothing!

Tesco: The 6 that are closest [including the empty flat at the Harp]. I held an open day so people could come and talk to me.

FPAG: How did you publicise the open day?

Tesco: The 6 houses nearest to the pub.

FPAG: There has been a police traffic survey…

Tesco: Yes, but it was a policeman’s report; we paid for a professional traffic survey.

FPAG: It was a Police Inspector that produced the report, not the local bobby! I have lived in Courthouse Road for 29 years and I wish it were as safe as your traffic report.

FPAG: What if we were to offer to buy the lease off Tesco; would that make any difference?

Tesco: (A long silence) Possibly.

Tesco: My senior people have asked me to let you know that Tesco is going ahead with this store.

FPAG: Would these faceless senior people sit around the table with us? We do not hide behind other people.

Tesco: [She did not answer, which we presume meant no]

Tesco: My senior people have asked me to let you know that Tesco is going ahead with this store.

FPAG: I am very disappointed that your faceless senior managers have threatened us in this way.

Tesco: No, they are not threatening you.

FPAG: What you have just said is a threat. Regardless of the traffic problems, safety etc., you will open this store.

Tesco: The appeal is set for October; we can do nothing until then.

FPAG: I have two questions that I would like you to take back to your faceless senior managers:
1. If Tesco loses the appeal in October, will they walk away from this site?
2. Would your senior managers meet with us?

Tesco: Yes I will [ask them]

Urban gardening!

The Urban Gardening on 6th August went really well. Over thirty FPAG supporters turned up and gave the Golden Harp a much needed make-over!

A big thank you to all the organisers, the contributors and the willing workers, young and old, for making such a fantastic idea come true!

It really felt like a community coming together to create something positive, a marvellous feeling indeed.

Keep up the good work, keep writing those letters and don’t forget to sign the petition.

Before:

Before

After:

After

Getting our hands dirty:

Getting our hands dirty

The whole team:

The whole team

More photos