Tesco in remarkable U-turn over town centre naming while Town Council ploughs on regardless in bowls dispute

The Brooks Centre, Bradley Stoke

A remarkable U-turn by Tesco public affairs consultant Dan Bramwell has seen the supermarket group agree to hold a public consultation over the naming of Bradley Stoke’s new town centre currently under construction at Savages Wood Road. The move comes less than two weeks after Mr Bramwell stated on Radio Bristol that “having a competition now would delay the building of the town centre”. In the radio interview he also stated that a decision to call the development “The Brooks Centre” had been made back in March, when Bradley Stoke Town Council had been informed that no competition to choose the name would now take place, despite an earlier promise in a Tesco press release.

In a fumbled attempt at embarrassing Tesco, the Bradley Stoke Town Council (BSTC) planning committee had unanimously objected to a planning application by Tesco for advertising signage that sported the “Brooks Centre” name. In doing so they overlooked the fact that South Gloucestershire Council’s (SGC) consultation period for the application had already expired. The planning committee’s grounds for objection served only to demonstrate their ignorance of planning law, the grounds being dismissed later by SGC planning officials as “irrelevant”.

In an address to Thursday evening’s Special Council Meeting, Mr Bramwell confirmed that the town centre development is “on schedule” for opening “later this year”. Marketing of the retail and office units is well underway, he added. However he also made several references to the imapct of the “economic slowdown”, which could be taken to mean that the developers are struggling to find tenants for some of the units. No mention was made by Mr Bramwell of any progress made in agreeing a joint BSTC/SGC drop-in centre in the new town centre.

Tesco’s local marketing team is due to take over the reins from Mr Bramwell in six weeks time.

The public competition to choose the name of the development will be launched early next week. The judging panel will be formed of two representatives from Tesco and two fom BSTC, with the winner receiving a £50 voucher and the right to nominate a local school to receive a personal computer donated by Tesco.

Members of Northavon Bowls Club

The Special Meeting had earlier held a fractious discussion about the Council’s ongoing dispute with Northavon Bowls Club over their rental agreement at Baileys Court. Unusually, members of the public had not been given the chance to speak at the start of the meeting and chair Julian Barge was adamant that the discussion should exclude the views of the assembled group of over 30 onlookers, including many members of the Bowls Club. Councillor Mark Forsyth began the meeting by summarising the discussions that had taken place between the Council’s working group and the bowlers. Expressions of disapproval from the audience eventually resulted in the meeting being adjourned for the Bowls Club to appoint a representative to speak on their behalf.

Once the meeting resumed (but still officially in an “adjourned” state), Brian Newland of the Bowls Club refuted many of the allegations made by Councillors earlier in the discussion and repeated calls for an independent arbitrator to be brought in.

With the meeting then officially reconvened, the Council resolved by a majority verdict to inform the Bowls Club that no change would be made to the “originally proposed agreement” (incorporating an 8% annual increase) and that the Club be given a further ten days to accept it or “that would be it”.

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