Bridgnorth faced a long battle with Tesco, which signed a confidential commercial agreement in 2003 with Bridgnorth District Council restricting the use of other council land for supermarket development. The agreement impacted on alternative development proposals for the area even after the Tesco application was quashed by the High Court in 2005.
Tesco reapplied and residents formed a campaign group to oppose the development, which produced posters, a petition, objection letters and a planning report. In July 2006 the Council voted to refuse Tesco's latest application and in October 2006 voted to abandon the legal agreement.
In January 2011 Bridgnorth Civic Society lodged an objection to plans for an Aldi store on the outskirts of the town because it could harm trade and the expansion of other businesses. The society is also against plans for a supermarket at Chartwell Park. In June permission was granted for the Aldi store and for the supermarket at Chartwell Business Park.
The original application
Tesco's originally obtained planning permission to build a supermarket and DIY store, with the "carrot" of providing a relief road, at Smithfield in 2003. The District Council then entered into a confidential land deal with Tesco, giving the chain exclusive rights to built a supermarket, a DIY store and relief road. The development would have swallowed up one of the main council car parks and the supermarket would mainly have been built on private land which would have been compulsorily purchased by the Council. The landowner applied to the High Court for a Judicial Review, which quashed the planning permission on the grounds that the decision to grant it had not taken account of a material factor (the purchase of an adjacent store by Sainsbury's, who then put in their own plans to expand their store and build the relief road). The refusal paved the way for the Sainsbury's expansion and relief road, but the Council could not proceed because of the obligations reached with Tesco in 2003.
The 2006 application
When Tesco's planning application came up to be re-determined by the Council early in 2006, local people formed a protest group Bridgnorth Against a Second Supermarket (BASS) which launched a petition and a campaign of letter writing to councillors, and commissioned their own planning report on the proposal. This showed that at least 6 local businesses would fold as a result of the supermarket. BASS succeeded in getting over 4,300 people to sign the petition (in a town with a population of about 12,000) and over 100 individual objections were made to the council (as against 1 supporter who contacted the Council). Local shops prominently displayed BASS posters and the campaign attracted good local media coverage. The Town (parish) Council opposed the development, as did English Heritage and the local Civic Society.
In July 2006 the District Council's Development Control Committee decided by 6-3 to reverse their previous decision and reject the application. Major grounds for refusal were:
•Insufficient quantitative retail need for the store, and the acknowledged qualitative factors (other stores trading at above average) not strong enough to outweigh this.
•The loss of a retail market (PPS 6 now encourages councils to support local markets).
•Store design not suitable for the location, adjacent to and partly within a Conservation Area (Tesco's claimed that their design was carefully chosen to suit the location - one councillor helpfully produced photographs of a virtually identical design Tesco have used 500 miles away in Dingwall!)
•The Highway Authority felt that the developers had not submitted sufficient information to enable the traffic impact to be assessed - a damning indictment considering part of the proposal included the developers building a relief road and that had been the major factor in the Council previously supporting the proposal.
•The developers were trying to squeeze so much onto the site they couldn't even find room for recycling facilities.
Councillors who spoke at the meeting expressed strong concern about the impact on the character of the town, and the risk to local businesses. National developments such as the recent report on Saxmundham, and Tesco's general bad press on planning issues, also helped create an environment in which refusal became "thinkable".