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Tesco moves closer to store on last UK mainland postcode without one

Harrogate council votes in favour after five-year debate – but opposition says it’s not all over yet

The last postcode in the UK mainland without a Tesco supermarket is closer to losing its unusual status.

Councillors in Harrogate have voted in favour of a store which was first proposed by the company seven years ago on the derelict site of the town’s former gasworks.

Eight acres of weeds and concrete between Electric Avenue and the Little Wonder roundabout have been targeted by the firm since 2004 when it paid £3.5 million to add them to its land bank.

The HG code has two Tesco Expresses but is the last in the UK apart from the Outer Hebrides, Orkney and Shetland not to have a full-sized outlet.

A special planning committee of Harrogate district council has now approved the development by ten votes to three with one abstention after a testy meeting interrupted by protests. Opposition to the 7.345 sq m (45,000 sq ft), 24-hour outlet remains vigorous, based on fears for the future of smaller shops in a town famous for retail ever since its early 19th century popularity as the site of a sulphurous ‘stinking spa’.

There has also been concern about traffic and the possible contamination of the site from its long use as a gasworks. Debate remains intense. Opponents intend to fight on against the proposal, which includes a public benefit sweetener of Tesco making an additional £1.5 million in the town centre.

Supporters point to the success of existing supermarkets in Harrogate, side by side with smaller shops, and the benefits of some 360 full- and part-time jobs which are expected to come with the building and staffing of a superstore. Geoff Webber, north Yorkshire county councillor for New Park where the site stands on the corner of the Skipton and Ripon roads, said that in an area of high employment, these would be snapped up.

Tesco, which has an Express outlet in the HG postal code area, welcomed the decision which follows revisions to the original plan submitted in 2007 but withdrawn in the face of objections the following year. The current application, making the shop smaller and with more sustainable features, was first submitted in 2009, revised last year and has been making its way through the planning system since then.

It still requires final approval from the full council and the backing of the Health and Safety Executive which previously advised against the plan and could ask the secretary of state for communities and local government, Eric Pickles, for a public inquiry. © 2011 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved. | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds