Council planners are to be ticked off again after it emerged they had lost another power to control the expansion of Tesco in Shetland.
The retailer has recently extended the opening times of its South Road supermarket by one hour at either end of the day, staying open from 7am to 11pm every day. It had intended opening from 6am to midnight but agreed to heed planners’ advice that such hours were inappropriate.
However, during the discussions it emerged the council had no formal powers to stop Tesco keeping whatever hours it wants.
The problem goes back to 1995 when Presto got planning permission to build the supermarket. The council drew up conditions to control its operation and asked Presto to submit details of its proposed opening hours. But the council has no record of that ever having been progressed. In effect it means no restriction has ever applied.
The embarrassing oversight follows the discovery last year that another oversight by planners meant Tesco could not be prevented from stocking as many non-food goods as it wanted in its new extension.
Restrictions only apply to the original part of the building and were not extended to cover the new bit. Tesco had originally intended not to sell convenience goods in the extension but then changed its mind and the council neglected to apply suitable conditions.
Although it appears the council has no powers to restrict opening hours, Tesco agreed to bring the issue under regulation by formally applying for a certificate of lawfulness to operate from 7am to 11pm.
Its justification for longer opening included serving people who often arrive off the NorthLink ferries before 8am to find the store closed.
When Lerwick Community Council was consulted, member Karen Fraser was concerned that Tesco could expand both its business and its opening hours and seemingly no one could do anything about it.
Ms Fraser said that as a very large store with long hours it was getting “out of balance” with the rest of the town. She could see no justification for even longer opening hours and called for the community council to object. In a vote she was defeated 5-3.
When the matter was considered again at this week’s meeting the community council agreed with member James Stewart that a letter should be written to the planning department asking what action it was going to take to ensure the same sort of oversight is not repeated.
Mr Stewart said: “It seems quite negligent of them.”