Get involved! Send your photos, video, news & views by texting MERCURY NEWS to 80360 or email us
Council chief questioned over Tesco decision
A COUNCIL chief has said it took just ‘three seconds’ for two authorities to agree to use £20,200 of taxpayers’ money to process Tesco’s planning application for Bridgwater’s Northgate site.
As reported, Somerset County Council and Sedgemoor District Council, joint land owners of the Northgate site, wanted £47,865 in planning fees, while Tesco said it should only pay £27,665.
The dispute was over whether under-croft parking should count as floor space, which would bump up the planning fee.
Kerry Rickards, chief executive of Sedgemoor District Council, told a corporate scrutiny committee meeting this week: “The application for planning permission was submitted on September 25, 2012, but could not be validated until the full planning application fee had been received.
“Once registered, the public would have full access to the application and would be able to comment on it.”
“In order to resolve that impasse, I spoke to the S151 officer at SCC and a joint decision was reached to pay the balance of the fee, namely £20,200, under delegated powers.
“It made sense for the County Council to pay the sum of money - it was a three-second decision.
“The full fee has therefore been paid. There has been no ‘concession’, the fee has not been reduced and none of it has been waived.”
But Cllr Julian Taylor, Bridgwater Eastover Ward, said: “This is the first time I have heard of this authority contributing to part of the fee for a planning application. It sets a dangerous precedent.”
Cllr Kathy Pearce, Bridgwater Westover Ward, added: “We were told the delay was due to a ‘technical difficulty’ – why were we not fully informed of the facts when members first asked questions in October?
“Somerset County Council is making millions of pounds worth of cuts and yet chose to subsidise a company that is making billions of pre-tax profits."