Government Inspector agrees refusal of Tesco’s Mill Road application

This article was published in 2008, in Newsletter 81.

Campaigners from both Cambridge Cycling Campaign and the No Mill Road Tesco Campaign (whose concerns were wider than ours) at a press gathering at the Mill Road store.
Image as described adjacent

As you may know, a 14th Tesco-owned store in Cambridge has been proposed for Mill Road. Mill Road is a busy distributor road which is the third worst accident blackspot across the whole of Cambridgeshire, a situation that is not helped by lorries on what is a narrow street. As we reported in Newsletter 77, Councillors refused the proposals, as none of the delivery options to service the store was considered practicable.

At the start of October we gave evidence at the Public Inquiry, going up against a (no doubt highly-paid) barrister from Tesco, who seemed somewhat flustered at the well-researched nature of our arguments. Our concerns have been strictly on the transport-related issues.

The Inspector’s report has now been published, and it upholds the views we put forward against Tesco’s application. The conclusion reads:

“I find that both of the realistically available servicing options would pose unacceptable risks to highway safety, which would not be outweighed by benefits or the fallback position. I therefore conclude that both appeals should be dismissed.”

Earlier in the report, the Campaign was noted as a knowledgeable and seemingly reliable source:

“I heard evidence on cycling from, amongst others, the Cambridge Cycling Campaign (Document 11). This is a local voluntary group with more than 1,000 fee-paying members which has some expert traffic knowledge and undertakes various cycling advocacy work; this was not challenged.”

In describing the main delivery option, that of lorries unloading twice a day for 41 minutes at a time from Mill Road itself, the Inspector, David Nicholson, who acted with the utmost professionalism and fairness to both ‘sides’ at all times, stated in the report:

“In particular, I heard evidence on the behaviour of cyclists and saw for myself that not all cyclists in Cambridge necessarily abide by all traffic regulations all of the time. Rather, they can sometimes become frustrated by delays which can lead to risky manoeuvres and illegal use of pavements. Overtaking stationary vehicles was highlighted as a problem, and the general experience of cyclists on Mill Road was described as continual chaotic manoeuvres.”
Tesco’s proposed delivery options were considered unsuitable for Mill Road, a chaotic, narrow street with a high accident rate.
Image as described adjacent

Tesco now have no option with this other than to take the matter to the High Court, which seems extremely unlikely.

However, Tesco have a second appeal standing – for their other application on the same site, which is merely for an air conditioning unit at the back rather than an extension. But the transport issues are the same, in fact, so it is hard to see how Tesco could win that appeal. We hope they withdraw the application and save everyone’s time in having to fight the proposals again.

Martin Lucas-Smith