Jun 2 2010 By Siba Matti
TRADERS and residents in Mill End have been left bitterly disappointed after plans to build a Tesco Express were approved – in the face of fierce opposition.
The supermarket giant won its campaign to build a convenience store, together with four two-bedroom flats, on the site of the former Happy Man pub, in Berry Lane, after two larger applications were previously rejected.
New plans for the site, revealed in March, showed a smaller development of four flats instead of eight and seven respectively, built on two levels rather than three.
But despite the proposals being scaled down, residents and traders expressed concerns about long-term parking problems, traffic congestion and loss of trade for neighbouring businesses, which some claimed could turn nearby Tudor Parade into a 'ghost town'.
More than 440 letters of objection, plus three petitions with a collective 852 signatures, were submitted against the development, during a consultation held by Three Rivers District Council (TRDC).
In spite of this, the plans were agreed at TRDC development control committee meeting on Thursday, May 27.
As part of a series of conditions attached to the approval, Tesco must foot the bill for pothole repairs in Tudor Parade, and contribute towards the cost of traffic wardens.
Paresh Patel, owner of A-Z Convenience Store in Tudor Parade, accused TRDC of failing to stand up for residents, for fear of the costs involved if Tesco took the matter to appeal.
"We are all extremely disappointed by the result and it is very a sad day for democracy," he said.
"What was the point in holding the consultation if our views were not going to be taken into account?
"In 2006, TRDC rejected plans to refurbish the pub on the grounds of insufficient parking – but how could it be worse than the problems a Tesco will bring? Why the double standards?
"It is clear the council had no money to defend us and they were scared that if matter was taken to appeal, as a similar plan was in Croxley Green, then they would be forced to pay for the costs, which they could not afford.
"We hope that Tudor Parade does not turn into a ghost town, but more importantly that no one is injured or killed. Ultimately, it is the local residents and traders who are going to suffer."
But councillor Geoff Dunne, chair of the development control committee at TRDC, insisted the council takes a rigorous line in deciding applications and is not allowed to refuse plans on the grounds of retail competition.
Cllr Dunne said: "Following concerns from residents we have refused Tesco twice before. As a result, Tesco has reduced the size and bulk of the planned store and made improvements in the design.
"We will require Tesco to provide support for infrastructure in the area. remains to be seen what the impact is on local businesses. Hertfordshire Highways did not object to the application."