Independent store report is ‘conflicted’

The unbiased nature of an “independent” report into Tesco’s bid to build a new supermarket in Hadleigh has been called into question.

A report into the company’s plan to create a store on the former Brett Works site was put together by consultants Nathaniel Lichfield & Partners at the request of Babergh District Council.

It claimed that although the impact of the 2,500 square metre store, combined with the arrival of Morrisons in the town, could result in the closure of the Co-op and two other shops, it would not harm the “vitality and viability” of Hadleigh.

But those findings have been questioned by campaigners after it was discovered that the London-based firm classes Tesco as a client and has an extensive working history.

On the company’s website, it states: “Our role involves assisting Tesco to deliver new and extended stores across the UK, from ‘Extra’ stores in complex town centre developments, to ‘Express’ convenience stores.”

Robert Lindsay, a Bildeston parish councillor and co-ordinator of Babergh’s Green Party, said that given the association with the supermarket, the report’s findings should be ignored.

“This report is written by a seriously conflicted consultant,” said Mr Lindsay.

“I would seriously question the independence of Nathaniel Lichfield & Partners given that its website openly boasts Tesco as a major client.”

Jan Byrne, chairman of the Hadleigh Society, which has campaigned against proposals for a supermarket on the site for more than a decade, said it was difficult to believe the report was impartial. “They are a very respectable company, but this was a funny choice for Babergh to have made,” she said.

“It is unbelievable to suggest the town will not suffer as we are talking about local people losing their jobs and businesses.”

Peter Wilks, director of Nathaniel Lichfield & Partners, said there was no conflict of interest as the firm had not advised Tesco in the Babergh district and it provided balanced planning advice. “All new projects are the subject of comprehensive conflict checks,” he said. “All our projects are undertaken on an impartial, confidential and independent basis. My team do not act for Tesco and NLP’s Tesco work is undertaken by a separate team within NLP.”