An official complaint has been lodged after a consultancy company, with strong links to Tesco, was employed to carry out an independent report into plans by the supermarket giant to build in Hadleigh.
Nathaniel Lichfield & Partners was commissioned by Babergh District Council to compile a report into any impact a Tesco store would have on the town should planning permission be granted for the former Brett Works site.
However, the credibility of the findings was called into question after it was discovered the firm classed Tesco as a client and had worked with it on a number of previous occasions.
A complaint into the report has now been made to the Royal Town Planning Institute – a watchdog responsible for maintaining standards.
“I want this matter to be taken seriously,” said Robert Lindsay, a Bildeston parish councillor and co-ordinator of Babergh’s Green Party, who lodged the compliant.
“The entire planning industry seems to be flawed if companies can get half their income by giving advice to people like Tesco and the other half by being consultants and doing independent reports for councils like Babergh.”
Mr Lindsay said that the report, which stated that Tesco would not damage the “viability and vitality” of Hadleigh despite posing a risk to the future of the Co-op and two other shops, was conflicted.
“I think a code of conduct has been breached as Nathaniel Lichfield & Partners has knowingly given this information to Babergh when it has Tesco as a major client,” he said.
Peter Wilks, a director at the consultancy firm, said all projects were completed on an impartial basis.
“NLP acts for a wide range of clients across the country, including retailers, local authorities, developers and landowners, including Tesco,” he said. “Where conflicts arise, these are managed appropriately.”
The complaint will be heard by the Royal Town Planning Institute in April.