HUDDERSFIELD MP Barry Sheerman today welcomed plans to toughen planning rules for supermarkets.
The Government’s competition watchdog yesterday said it would press ahead with tighter planning hurdles to stop supermarkets dominating local markets.
Mr Sheerman, an outspoken critic of the Tesco and Asda proposals for Huddersfield town centre, said the Competition Commission’s ‘competition test’ was good news on the face of it.
The test will prevent those with a strong presence in a particular area shutting out rivals by building more stores or major extensions to existing outlets.
Under the test, the Office of Fair Trading will advise UK planning authorities on the potential impact of any new development.
Applicants would pass the test if the retailer was new to the area or if there were four or more different firms in the market within a 10 minute drive of the proposed site.
With three or fewer retailers in the market, the store would only be approved if it does not give the applicant more than 60% of grocery selling space.
Chairman of the commission, Peter Freeman, said: “We expect that the competition test will have the effect we intend by helping to bring in competition where it is lacking and to stop individual retailers consolidating strong positions in local areas to the detriment of consumers.”
But Mr Sheerman said he feared it was part of their strategy to get Kirklees Council to look more kindly on the Huddersfield Southgate application which has yet to be formally handed in.
He said: “There’s no doubt by all the economics I learned at university that Tesco is a monopoly in some parts of the country.
“It’s a great big company and it isn’t sensitive to local opinion and it won’t accept that Tesco’s presence destroys local business.”
Mr Sheerman said he had recently approached all the major supermarkets for donations to a new charity, Greenstreams, which hopes to clean up Huddersfield’s waterways.
But he said all of them had refused to contribute, except Morrisons which sent a bottle of wine.
This compared with £30,000 from Britvic and thousands from Marks and Spencer.
Mr Sheerman said Sir Ken Morrison’s gift had been returned.
He said: “I want fair competition, I don’t want supermarkets to be bad members of the community, I want them to put something back.”
The UK’s biggest supermarket chain, Tesco, challenged the introduction of the competition test earlier this year.
Following their appeal a minor exception was made to allow retailers to make small extensions to stores.