An independent retailer has claimed an unexpected victory after plans by Asda to take over half of an existing B&Q site were rejected by councillors.
Amit Patel, of Belvedere News, Food and Wine in south east London, feared for the future of his business after Asda announced the plans to share the B&Q site last July.
But last week councillors on Bexley’s planning committee rejected the proposal against their planning officers’ advice - although Asda plans to re-submit the application. The decision was influenced by Amit, who gave a speech to the committee on the day and had initiated a campaign against the development from the start. “I’m ecstatic, especially as I thought I was fighting a losing battle,” said Amit. “The statistics show that multiples always get permission, especially in times of austerity – the mults will pay councils for new roads and so on. One councillor admitted to me that they can’t resist the money.”
In his speech at the committee meeting, he highlighted the plight of independent shops, “which are being forced out of business by the supermarkets”, and Asda’s claim to create 300 jobs. “Asda will create jobs, but for how long? The question you should ask yourself is ‘how many jobs will be lost and more importantly how many livelihoods will be lost,’” he told councillors.
Amit had canvassed the support of retailers and residents, drafted a petition which was signed by more than 400 people, contacted councillors and his local MP, and become an expert on planning law.
Councillor Kerry Allon said the application would have gone through without Amit’s campaign. “He was absolutely brilliant,” he said. “I’d said to him that if he could provide evidence that people didn’t want the plans, I’d back him.”
The campaign was originally called AA (Against Asda), but it gained momentum after the name was changed to BAAD (Belvedere Against Asda Development). “It was a good PR stunt – you need vision to catch the public’s and press’ imagination,” Allon said. “It’s all about how you present the case.”
The council will disclose the official reasons for the rejection in due course, but Allon said it was probably due to “the vitality of Belvedere”, road safety issues and noise pollution.
However, Asda said that the council’s standard procedure meant the application would go back to the committee in March.
“That meeting will allow councillors to consider additional evidence from us on the issues which were of concern to members. We hope that with the benefit of that additional information, some of the members may feel able to support the officers’ recommendation that planning permission should be granted,” a spokesman for Asda said.