BSCF Letter objecting to Tesco development at Havers Lane

Letter to East Herts Head of Planning and Development Control setting out concerns about the redevelopment of the Former Archers public house.

The letter below shows the contents of this letter sent on 19 November 2012.

Kevin Steptoe
Head of Planning and Building Control
East Herts Council
Pegs Lane
SG13 8EQ
19 November 2012


1. It has recently come to public attention that the former Archers public house in Bishop's Stortford is to be converted by Tesco into a convenience food store. The public awareness has occurred for two reasons. Firstly Tesco sent the attached letter to a number of neighbouring properties, outlining their commercial plans. Secondly, in the last couple of days, a large fence has been erected around the property and building work has commenced, the precise nature of which is difficult to identify because it is concealed behind the fence.

2. Tesco have said correctly that a change of use from public house to a food store would not necessarily require planning permission. However, a number of aspects of the work either definitely do or may well require planning permission and it is for this reason that I am writing on behalf of the Civic Federation.

3. Firstly, my understanding is that any fence more than 2 metres high requires permission which apparently in this case has not been sought. A temporary steel mesh fence of the kind at present surrounding the former Total Garage in South Road/ London Road would be perfectly adequate for health and safety purposes and to keep out intruders. There is no justification for the structure that has been erected outside the Archers.

4. Secondly Tesco acknowledge that they will require planning permission for alterations to the frontage, air conditioning equipment and an ATM machine, which they intend to seek shortly. Other aspects of their work may require permission, but since they have not disclosed their plans, we cannot tell. Also relevant is the suggestion that the store will require deliveries ‘only’ five times a day. This is at least five times more often than the public house would have required and both the traffic implications and disturbance to neighbours need to be assessed when Tesco’s plans are made available.

5. Finally, there is no conceivable need for a new store in this location, given the presence of the long established NISA store only a stone’s throw away, whose own business will be put at risk as a result, whilst the loss of the Archers as a public house would deprive the community of a valued facility. On these matters, the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) has the following to say

‘70. To deliver the social, recreational and cultural facilities and services the community needs, planning policies and decisions should:

● plan positively for the provision and use of shared space, community facilities (such as local shops, meeting places, sports venues, cultural buildings, public houses and places of worship) and other local services to enhance the sustainability of communities and residential environments;

● guard against the unnecessary loss of valued facilities and services, particularly where this would reduce the community’s ability to meet its day-to-day needs;

● ensure that established shops, facilities and services are able to develop and modernise in a way that is sustainable, and retained for the benefit of the community;’

Tesco already has a major supermarket at Bishops Park and a convenience store in the town centre. There is no need for another outlet here which will serve only to disadvantage an established business.

6. In our view it is quite unacceptable that a major national company should embark on this work without first seeking planning permission. Tesco appear to expect that once the work is completed, planning permission will be obtained retrospectively. They may be calculating that EHDC would be concerned that refusal of permission and restoration of the status quo ante would be regarded by the Courts as disproportionate. Enforcement action therefore needs to be taken before, not after, the event.

7. On the question of enforcement, the NPPF says the following

‘207. Effective enforcement is important as a means of maintaining public confidence in the planning system. Enforcement action is discretionary, and local planning authorities should act proportionately in responding to suspected breaches of planning control.’

The breaches of planning control in this case have either taken place already or are in contemplation, and Tesco has been quite open in admitting that it has yet to seek permission for work already started. In order to maintain our confidence in the planning system in East Herts, it is essential that enforcement action is taken immediately. In our view this means EHDC serving an enforcement notice on Tesco, requiring the immediate removal of the fence and its replacement by a more appropriate temporary structure such as I have described in para 3 above. In addition, EHDC should seek a Court injunction requiring Tesco to discontinue all building work until such time as they have sought and been granted planning permission. It is just possible that they would regard contempt of court as a more serious matter than the contempt in which they appear to hold the planning system.

8. I am copying this letter to Cllrs Woodward and Symonds.

John Rhodes

Reply from Head of Planning and Building Control at East Herts District Council  Top 

Reply from Kevin Steptoe, Head of Planning and Building Control, to BSCF letter of 19 November 2012 in which he rejects the BSCF's request for planning enforcement action at the Tesco site in Havers Lane.

Reply from Head of Planning and Building Control at East Herts District Council