Tesco U-turns on plan to scrap free parking at Lancs store

The Tesco car park in Burscough
-Credit: (Image: Google)


A plan by supermarket firm Tesco to scrap unrestricted free car parking in a West Lancashire town centre appears to have been withdrawn. The application to introduce a three hour time limit on parking at the Tesco Burscough site on Station Approach, and a barrier, had sparked many objections, with fears it would impact badly on residents and businesses, and was not needed.

People have been able to park there for unrestricted times since the site was first built over 20 years ago, according to council reports. Recently, nearly 200 letters and emails with comments and objections about the potential change have been sent to West Lancashire Council, which was due to consider the Tesco plan this week.

Objectors raised queries including 'the right of Tesco to issue fines' and 'disappointment that Tesco, as a large company which has been supported by the community'. would impose parking restrictions. The Tesco application had been called-in for scrutiny to West Lancashire's planning committee by two borough councillors, Andy Fowler and Patricia Burnside.

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Tesco view

Tesco was assisted by planning agent Roderick MacLeod of Redline Planning Services in Scotland. In a letter supporting the application, Mr MacLeod stated: "Tesco is finding that the approved shoppers car park is coming under considerable pressure and is being used by non-Tesco customers. This is particularly relevant as the store is in close proximity to Burscough Bridge train station, where Northern Rail recently introduced charges to use the associated parking facilities, charging £2 per day. This paid-for rail parking facility makes the free parking at the Tesco car park more attractive to rail users.

"As a result, the store manager has observed an increase in use of the car park by non-Tesco shoppers, with the Tesco car park becoming a de-facto park-and-ride facility. This is to the detriment of shoppers at both the Tesco store and wider town centre.

"To address this issue and ensure that there is sufficient parking for Tesco and other shoppers, it is proposed to introduce a maximum stay of up to three hours at the store. Parking during this time will remain free for all users, with fines levied for overstaying. This arrangement is considered sufficient for local residents to park at the Tesco store, undertake a shopping trip elsewhere within the town centre or even take a short rail journey. The proposed maximum stay with therefore reduce the attractiveness of the Tesco car park to longer-stay commuters."

A West Lancashire planning report to councillors stated: "The application relates to the variation of a condition given in 2001 which stated unless otherwise agreed in writing with the local council there shall be unrestricted access into the proposed shoppers car park. The reason is to safeguard the safety and interests of highway users and to ensure that the development complies with the provisions of the West Lancashire local plan. The applicant Tesco seeks to amend the condition. to a maximum stay of up to three hours."

'Parking pressure'

Burscough Town Council has raised objections and stated " The condition on the original application was imposed because planners realised the importance of making more car parking spaces available in Burscough centre for general use of residents going about their business and also local business-owners. This was because of the distinct lack of free spaces and increased housing and industrial development that was going to take place in the near future, which would put further pressure on the amount of available parking.

"This pressure has greatly increased in the last few years with unprecedented house building and industrial development, particularly at Yew Tree Farm, with the consequential traffic increase."

The town council; said this growth makes the need for car parking 'even more compelling' and claims that Tesco has not provided any data supporting its assertion that there are periods when the car park is full and Tesco customers cannot park.

The town council added: "The evidence provided by large numbers of residents who have regularly shopped at Tesco over many years would suggest that there are always spaces available. no matter what time of day they choose to shop."

Regarding the introduction of parking charges at Burscough train station, the town council added: "One of our members has recorded the number of vehicles using Northern's facility over a five-day period. It averages out to nine which leaves11 empty spaces in a total of 20 available. Even if all 11 were then parking at Tesco, which is doubtful as some will be using the council car park opposite Tesco, the impact is minimal if non-existent.

"The same member visited Tesco on Sunday, May 12, around 11am. This has recently been a very busy period due to junior football at Burscough Sports Centre. Considering the additional pressure on parking, there were still spaces available and therefore no restriction on being able to shop at Tesco. Any changes will impact town centre businesses and some will close due to the proposed changes," the town council added.

West Lancashire planning officers were recommending the Tesco application to be rejected. Their concerns included the impact of a proposed barrier at the car park entrance, which could b a risk to people walking and vehicles. Councillors were due to consider the application at the planning meeting in Ormskirk on Thursday, June 20, at 7pm. But a recent update on the council's website indicates the plan has now been withdrawn.