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Choosing sides in the Tesco debate: Politicians make their tricky choice
9:18am Friday 23rd March 2012 in Features
SPARE a thought for the politicians for whom the Tesco controversy must have been a nightmare.
Politicians of all political colours love to be associated with a popular cause so the Tesco issue raised a real problem as the town was so clearly split with passionate views on both sides.
One of the benefits of being young is that things look more vivid but as we get older we realise that very little is black or white – shades of grey predominate.
I have no doubt that Tesco will bring more people into Tenbury and that some of that extra footfall will convert to more money finding its way into the pockets of other shops and businesses in the town.
Equally, I have no doubt that some businesses will also suffer a loss of trade.
In the end there will be winners and losers so it comes down to a very hard decision based on a view of what brings the greater good to the community.
Local politicians eventually have to declare one way or the other and the divide on this matter between Tenbuy’s two Conservative councillors Phil Grove and Tony Penn was illustrative of the divisions within the town.
It is notable that the town’s MP Harriett Baldwin kept her head down over Tesco.
Her silence on the biggest issue to affect the town for many years was as shrewd as it was deafening.
To add to the complexity there are strict criteria as to why planning applications can be refused. It is not enough just to dislike a scheme or be unhappy that it may result in competition that is bad for existing businesses.
Get it wrong and the applicant can appeal. If successful, and the inspector judges that the refusal was unreasonable, costs can be levied against the local authority.
In reaching their decision on the Tesco application Malvern Hills planners were warned by their own officers that a refusal could lead to an appeal that might well have been successful.
The one thing that united both sides of the debate is a concern about how the issue has split the local community.
Hopefully the wounds will heal but this will take time and they will re-open if the objectors’ fears about the impact on the smaller local traders prove to be founded.
But even now the matter may not be resolved. We still have to see if hints about a judicial review prove to be a last chapter or a new one in this saga