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Wandsworth challenges Byers in Tesco store dispute

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A row over plans for a major Tesco supermarket, on the site of a derelict south London hospital, looks set to reach the High Court, writes Zoe Blackler.

Wandsworth has challenged secretary of state Stephen Byers' decision to support the 2,500m 2store in South Clapham, accusing him of inconsistency.

The latest twist follows an eight-year dispute over the retail giant's plans for the site and pits Wandsworth against rival borough Lambeth.

While the site falls just within Lambeth - which was eventually minded to approve the plans in July 1999 - neighbouring Wandsworth remains vehemently opposed. The scheme, by BMD Architects, will involve the demolition of all but the facade of the South London Women's Hospital overlooking Clapham Common.

While Wandsworth supports development of the site in principle, it claims the planned store will steal trade from the local shops. Chair of Wandsworth's planning committee, Ravi Govindia, said the proposals were 'awful', and accused Byers of being 'completely confused' in his justification of the scheme. Byers' decision to direct approval - against the advice of his inspector - came hand in hand with a decision to block plans for a Safeway store on the site of the former Wimbledon FC stadium, Govindia said.He believes the same criteria that led Byers to refuse Safeway should have led him to refuse Tesco. Wandsworth lodged its request for a judicial review last week.

Local group Clapham South Neighbourhood Association has also been fighting Tesco's plans since 1994. The association argues it will damage the local conservation area. Piers Sturridge of the CSNA claimed Lambeth had admitted to granting planning permission because it lacked the resources to keep fighting the supermarket chain, which he accused of 'slowly grinding down the opposition'.

But director of BMD Architects Krish Kakkar, who has designed several Tesco stores, defended his scheme. He said the only objections were from residents whose houses backed onto the hospital.

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