Probe into report on Tesco bid concluded

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An investigation into the impartiality of an independent report on Tesco’s bid to build a new supermarket in Hadleigh has concluded that no wrongdoing took place.

A report into the impact the proposed store would have on the town was brought into question after it was discovered consultancy firm Nathaniel Lichfield & Partners, which was asked to carry out the report by Babergh District Council, had close links to Tesco.

An official complaint was made to the Royal Town Planning Institute – a watchdog responsible for maintaining standards – but it has found that the firm did not have a conflicted interest.

Sandra Whitehead, a complaint investigator for the institute, said: “The panel has considered the correspondence and documentation submitted and has come to the finding that the Code of Professional Conduct has not been breached.”

The report into Tesco’s plan to build on the former Brett Works site had stated that the viability and vitality of the town’s shops would not suffer if the 2,500 square metre store was created. This was despite a danger that the Co-op supermarket and two other stores could close as a result.

Campaigners against the new store claimed the report was biased as the London based consultant had named Tesco as a client on its website and said it had helped the company deliver stores across the UK.

The planning watchdog said in light of this, the firm, which has always maintained it acted correctly, was advised to consider making changes to its website to avoid any perceived conflict of interest.

Robert Lindsay, a Bildeston parish councillor and co-ordinator of Babergh’s Green Party, who lodged the complaint, said the investigations findings were a “whitewash”.

No date has been set for a planning meeting to debate Tesco’s application.