Seaton: Will Competition Commission halt Tesco?

A PROSPECTIVE MP from Axmouth hopes Tesco s plans will be ruled out with tough new plans by a competition watchdog

A PROSPECTIVE MP from Axmouth hopes Tesco's plans will be ruled out with tough new plans by a competition watchdog.

Jon Underwood, prospective parliamentary candidate for Tiverton and Honiton Liberal Democrats, believes the Competition Commission could put an end to the supermarket's developments in Seaton on competition grounds.

The Competition Commission is urging the Government to ban supermarkets that already have a 60 per cent market share within an area from either opening a new store or increasing floor space at the existing one.

Dr Underwood said: "I hope this report will put an end to Tesco's plans and cause East Devon District Council to think again - and take into account the wishes of residents and the urgent need for competition in the grocery market.

"The council must explain why it ignored the wishes of residents, the need for competition and the massive environmental costs to help Tesco entrench its monopoly.

"I have certainly not given up hope that, despite the council's folly, Seaton will end up getting the leisure and tourism facilities it badly needs, rather than an aircraft hangar sized store, which could lay waste to the town centre."

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Mayor Sandra Semple feels the move could have further implications if a Tesco application in Ottery St Mary is given the go-ahead.

She said: "It will be interesting to see whether this advice eventually has any effect in East Devon, particularly if Tesco are successful in Ottery St Mary, as then every market and coastal town in the area would have a Tesco store - but no other 'big four' supermarket representation."

The Competition Commission (CC) has tried to introduce a test for applicants, in which they would have to be 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.

Tesco challenged the introduction of the competition test earlier this year.

An EDDC spokesman said the present status of CC's findings should not effect the applications at Seaton.

He said: "All the applications went to committee in September, as scheduled. EDDC is aware of CC's deliberations, but how this might work in practice has not yet been finalised.

"It is unlikely that any new planning rules will be in place in the near future, as there will probably need to be a further consultation exercise with Local Planning Authorities."

He added that where an application fails the tests that are set, there will still be occasions where allowances are made.