Thursday, June 01, 2006

Every little helps

A few weeks ago, Cllr Paul Tilsley announced an inquiry into the land holdings of the big three supermarkets, accusing them of using 'black arts' to secure their positions. I do hope that the inquiry doesn't just cover the land holdings of the supermarkets, but also what land their favoured developers are sitting on as well, as the OFT inquiry will do. He's not been very forthcoming about what this means, but the sudden realisation that big companies don't play fair (where has Cllr Tilsley been all these years, eh?) hasn't stopped the council selling off land. You see, principles come a poor second to the need to flog off the family silver to fund the plans for council housing and the supermarkets offer rather more than the traditional thirty pieces of silver.

So, when Tesco put cold hard cash on the table for the old Swan Centre and some playing fields in Yardley, Cllr Tilsley bit their hand off - just after the council had agreed the sale of playing fields in Hodge Hill to the same chain, although local support seems a little light on the ground. Liam Byrne, the local MP, found 80% opposition to the scheme when he polled 2000 houses.

Now, it appears that a planning application by the Co-op in Stirchley has been allowed to sit in a filing cabinet while yet another application from Tesco (them again) has been expressed through the system.

Not only will the council benefit from the sale of land, worth millions of pounds, but they will also be able to salve their consciences with healthy s106 agreements, whereby the developers will have to invest in the local community. With the council desperate for cash, you can understand why the lure of the Tesco lucre is so strong and why planning applications just fly through the system - although there are suggestions that Tesco aren't offering a huge sum in Hodge Hill, as they feel that they are already paying enough for the site.

Whether local residents and local businesses will feel as happy as the council about the outcome remains to be seen, but it strikes me as deeply hypocritical to slam Tesco's behaviour at the same time as you are pocketing their money. At the very least, it is rude.

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