Tesco bought the site from the Government in 2002 and worked up plans for the site. Ironically, the site had been used by the Ministry of Agriculture Food and Fisheries and had mostly single-storey barrack-style buildings on it. It emerged at the public meetings held in November 2006 that Tesco purchased the site by private treaty and the site never entered the open market. The local authority, the Royal Borough of Kingston, made it clear in the Planning Brief for the site that it was deemed that a retail store would in no way be considered to be acceptable for the site.
The planned development included a new 89,000 sq ft superstore (with 52,000 sq ft retail floorspace) and 662 flats in blocks 12 storeys high. The site, known as the Toby Jug site after a famous pub that previously stood there, and found in the A-Z as Hook Rise South, is next to the A3, a road believed to be the most heavily used non-motorway road in the UK.
Tesco made strong claims for the sustainability credentials of its proposals. The development is dubbed "The Bridge" because it proposed to build a new pedestrian bridge across the A3 from Tolworth Broadway to the new development, thus circumventing the existing pedestrian subways at the Tolworth junction maintained by Transport for London.
The bridge would have had an airport-style travelator in order to help people get up onto the bridge from the Broadway side, which is where the commercial activity is currently centred. Tolworth Broadway currently (early 2007) has a lot of independent traders including a fruit and vegetable store, a butcher, cafés, a chemist, an electrical shop, a photo-processing shop, and an opticians as well as a small Boots Chemist, a Marks & Spencer store and a Budgens supermarket. There is also already an Iceland supermarket, a Tesco Express in the Tolworth Broadway shopping centre, and a large Tesco Extra just 3 miles away along the A3 in New Malden.
What Tesco left out of its brochure is any mention of traffic and how that might affect the local area. It didn't mention how many car parking spaces they intended to provide for the shop and for the flats. Neither was there any discussion about how the Tesco store would affect the trade in nearby independent shops.
Tesco indicated that it would be prepared to pay for the removal of a pedestrian safety guard railing that is currently down the centre of Tolworth Broadway and to replace the pedestrian subway with a pelican crossing. What it neglected to say was that Transport for London is funding the Royal Borough of Kingston to do this in any case. It said that by doing this, and by providing more on-street car parking on what is the main route from the A3 to Kingston town centre, it could "encourage people back to Tolworth to shop", but said nothing about what this would do to traffic congestion and delays to buses.
Residents wrote to the local newspapers expressing concern about over development and in particular the pressure on health and education services in the area if the population increases by the projected 2,000 inhabitants.