A COUNCILLOR is urging shoppers in Inverness to boycott supermarket giant Tesco after it refused to pay £340,000 towards a city bypass.
Tesco now says it will not contribute towards the £34.4 million project in the city – which earned the nickname “Tesco Town” for having four stores in close proximity to each other.
Bosses at the supermarket claim an agreement they signed in 2001 as part of planning consent for its store at the city’s Dores Road, near where the bypass is to be sited, had a ten-year deadline, so expired in 2011.
But last night independent city councillor Jim Crawford said: “It is disgraceful that a company that benefits so much from Inverness in money terms is turning its back on the city on a previous agreement.
“If it turns out that this agreement is out of date then questions need to be asked within the council.
“But we can’t allow someone like Tesco, which makes millions out of Inverness each day, to get away with not paying £340,000 towards the bypass.
“The people of Inverness should look at this and decide to boycott Tesco and shop elsewhere.
“They are not here for the good of the city if they relent from a previous agreement. If it is out of date then we must find out why this ten-year rule was written into the agreement.”
Officials have said the money would go towards Highland Council’s plans to
complete the A9/A96 link by building new bridges over the River Ness and Caledonian Canal and, controversially, constructing a road through Canal Park.
The local authority disagrees with Tesco over the ten-year time-bar.
It insists the agreement only covers phases of the project which took the bypass to Dores Road – and not the final connection to the A82.
An e-mail from a senior council transport official confirms that the agreement detailing the payment of £340,000 by Tesco was subject to the road being completed in ten years.
It adds: “One for the solicitors to sort out. Depends on what the words say and maybe the intent at the time. They said their solicitors would be writing.”
Thomas Prag, Highland Council’s chairman of the planning, environment and development committee, said he believed it was a matter of interpretation.
He added: “It is down to the lawyers to untangle. It would be entirely inappropriate for me to make a comment while the lawyers are in discussions but the problem is the definition of what that ten-year time limit actually means.”
Mr Prag acknowledged that the council’s record on conditions around developers’ contributions had not always been good.
He added: “We now have somebody full-time who works on those agreements because previously the council was not always terribly aware of what they had actually taken the money for and why. We are much better about that now.”
A council spokesman said: “The £340,000 has not been paid – we are actively reviewing where we go from here.”
Mr Crawford added: “When you think of the money Tesco has made from Inverness, the amount we are talking about is not even a morning’s income for them.
“I would be all in favour of a boycott and people saying we are not coming back.”
Tesco was unavailable for comment.