Tesco accuses council of being ‘unreasonable’ in school bill row

The supermarket giant is appealing to Scottish ministers over a decision by East Lothian Council.

Tesco accuses council of being ‘unreasonable’ in school bill row iStock

Tesco has accused East Lothian Council of failing to act “fairly or reasonably” in a row over a £400,000 school bill, which was agreed 13 years ago.

The supermarket giant has repeatedly argued it should not pay the developer fee because it relates to a Musselburgh housing plan it is no longer involved in.

Now it is appealing to Scottish ministers over a decision by the local authority to charge interest on the bill, which was due earlier this year.

And it says the council’s failure to include them in discussions over changes to the housing proposals means it is tied to making contributions on a development, which might never be completed. 

Tesco also pointed out the plan is not the one it was granted planning permission for 13 years ago.

In a statement to the Scottish Government Reporter this week, the chain said: “Tesco has not been involved in any of the discussions between the developer and the council over the past 13 years.

“During this time the developer has decided for its own reasons not to come forward with development proposals but has simply sought to keep the consent alive during this period.

“Tesco does not consider that the council or the developer have acted in a fair and reasonable manner throughout this process in consistently making sure that Tesco remains the party due to make the education payment.”

The chain claim a number of planning amendments lodged by the new developers to the housing plans over the years gave the council several chances to recoup the education contributions, which all developers pay based on how many families will live in new homes.

Instead, the council chose to continue expecting Tesco to pay.

The store said: “It appears inconsistent to Tesco that the council should continue to insist on Tesco making an early payment of £400,000 whilst not assessing the need for any additional contributions or assessments of impacts of the new applications lodged by the developer.”

Tesco is asking Scottish Ministers to defer the £400,000 contributions bill until the last house on the new development is completed.

East Lothian Council has argued that Tesco is getting off lightly after the deal over the land at its former store site at Olivebank, Musselburgh, was signed 15 years ago.

It said if a similar deal was struck today the contribution request would be closer to £700,000.

And it warned a delay to the payment being made could “significantly impact” ongoing projects to provide a new secondary school in Wallyford and extend Musselburgh Grammar School.

Under planning legislation local authorities can ask housing developers to pay a proportion of money towards schooling to counteract the additional number of families moving into their homes.

Tesco originally applied for planning permission for a new store, care home and houses on the site of its old store at Olivebank, Musselburgh.

But it then built the new store on adjoining land, handing over the original site to a third party developer.

The appeal is with the Scottish Government Reporter.

By local democracy reporter Marie Sharp

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