The CHRISS campaign group in Worcestor began in 2000 to oppose an alliance of Tesco and Worcestershire County Council (WCC). Campaigners believed that Tesco and WCC were trying to move the Christopher Whitehead High School to a farmer's field, outside its current catchment area, in order to clear a site that is more central in the community for a huge new supermarket. The community and parents' wishes are against the scheme.
The school site allows 72% of pupils to walk to school and is in an area of older housing stock, most without garages. The traffic chaos caused both by the supermarket and increased school run traffic would be horrific. To allow Tesco to go ahead, the school must first be moved. The County Council brought a planning application for a new school, and voted the scheme through. However local opposition, including from the City Council, was sufficient to force a public inquiry into the school move and the plans were completely rejected in September 2004.
Tips on getting an Inquiry from the CHRISS campaign:
The key to getting a Public Inquiry was providing as many politicians as possible with indisputable facts.
By contacting as many as possible, you find out a lot about motivations (and connections). It’s then possible to find the ones that are willing to speak on your behalf and do the ‘legwork’ for them. The mistake that most people make is to expect that a petition will magically change everything. Individual politicians need to be provided with hard facts that can be used to nullify Tesco’s arguments.
In our case, we created a website (sadly no longer in existence), which didn’t make too many comments but posted quotes from the local press and letters we’d received. We also put maps, plans, Planning Applications up there. In this way I was contacted by local teachers, planning officers (working outside the local area) and surveyors who all had important information.
We therefore managed to swing the City Council from not understanding the issues and being split roughly 50/50 for and against, to being unanimously opposed to Tesco. The Planning Committee unanimously rejected Tesco’s only application for the school site that reached them in June 2003. The full council also voted 24-1 to confirm this result.
Once the City Council had sent such a strong message, the holding of a Public Inquiry was a foregone conclusion (it was announced two months later). The City Council also prepared very well for the Inquiry.