Tesco CEO Terry Leahy used yesterday’s CBI conference in Birmingham as a forum to vent his frustration over the firm’s four-year struggle to open a supermarket in a south London borough.

“I know Rome wasn’t built in a day,” he told delegates: “But why does it take four years to get a positive decision for one, moderately-sized, inner-city store?”

Leahy detailed the battles between Britain’s largest supermarket group and local councillors in Lambeth, the planning delays, public enquiries and environmental protests that have dogged the proposed £30m (US$43.9m) development since 1997.

Tesco argues that its original plans for the site (a former women’s hospital next to Clapham Common) were “community-friendly”, comprising of a mixed development; a 25,000ft² supermarket and including space for 104 homes and a doctor’s surgery.

But after four years, two planning inquiries and spending “millions of pounds” to accommodate objections, Tesco is still waiting for a decision.

How well do you really know your competitors?

Access the most comprehensive Company Profiles on the market, powered by GlobalData. Save hours of research. Gain competitive edge.

Company Profile – free sample

Thank you!

Your download email will arrive shortly

Not ready to buy yet? Download a free sample

We are confident about the unique quality of our Company Profiles. However, we want you to make the most beneficial decision for your business, so we offer a free sample that you can download by submitting the below form

By GlobalData
Visit our Privacy Policy for more information about our services, how we may use, process and share your personal data, including information of your rights in respect of your personal data and how you can unsubscribe from future marketing communications. Our services are intended for corporate subscribers and you warrant that the email address submitted is your corporate email address.

The application was originally backed by Lambeth planning officers, but the full local council raised objections on conservation grounds. After Tesco appealed, a public inquiry in February 1998 saw the planning inspector support the council.

So Tesco submitted a fresh application in April 1999, re-jigging its proposals in line with the planning inspector’s suggestion that the company preserve the building’s facade. This package was given the go ahead by both sides in August, only to be rejected by deputy Prime Minister John Prescott, who ordered another public inquiry in October. This inquiry was held over two stages in April and July last year.

Since then, says Leahy, there has been an “ominous silence” on the part of the government.

A spokesman from transport minister Stephen Byers’s department told the Daily Telegraph: “I can’t give you any guidance on this one.”