ConDems’ bad news for superstore chain in E9
New government talks of ‘people power’
Councils offered financial incentives for big schemes
Hopes arise for those Hackneyites who feel queasy about plans to turn the superstore site in Morning Lane near Mare Street into a shopping centre with 134 flats plopped above it — aka, Tesco Town.
This latest example of “regeneration” is vulnerable to a potentially forceful element of people power being introduced by the ConDem government.
The Conservative Party before the election was talking about “localism” through “collaborative democracy” just as the Liberal Democrats, now their partners in coalition, have been yapping about “communities free from Westminster”. As a result, the housing ministry will drop national targets for building new homes and some powers will move to councils.
Hackney’s newly elected council, dominated by Labour members in love with regeneration, is unlikely to listen seriously to voter protests against Tesco. But there will be a third-party right of appeal for local people, and that could block big construction projects.
Developers have already started a counter-offensive: articles have appeared in national newspapers and on trade blogs. Taylor Wimpey described the power-to-the-people concept as “scary”, even though central government will offer councils financial incentives if they go along with such projects.
The new Housing Minister, Grant Shapps, nevertheless felt obliged to comfort developers, saying: “If we find that the financial incentives on offer don’t work, we will increase them.” So, a bigger bribe for councils to co-operate with mega-size developments.
The developers have also been relieved to hear that the LibDems are likely to be overruled in their attempt to reinstate Vat on new build, a policy of the previous government that often made it cheaper to put up huge brick barns rather than refurbish perfectly good buildings.
Tesco Town, however, faces another danger: the TorLibs are toying with bringing back the so-called needs test that requires retailers to prove there is a need for a new shop. And because John Lewis and many other big names have signed up to Westfield, the mighty shopping centre emerging a few km away at Stratford, that would be difficult.
And don’t forget about the mini Tescos that keep appearing around the borough.
* A No Clapton Tesco Campaign aginst a proposed Tesco Express at 144-146 Lower Clapton Road plans a protest tomorrow Sunday at 5pm. Well, possibly: the protester’s website does not specifically say 23 May 2010.