The owner of a BP garage has accused the oil giant of aiming to wipe out his business after it won planning permission for a massive development just 50m from his site.
His grievance was deepened because the first he knew about the planning application, which was made on November 4, was when a friend on Facebook told him about it. He had no contact from BP about the plans until he emailed the company on November 21.
Simon Privett has owned and operated the Tollgate Service Station on the A2 at Gravesend in Kent since 1999 and has been a customer of BP for the entire time, with the latest renewal of the supply contract for a further five years taking place in March 2012.
During that time he has fought back after an A2 bypass was built in 2006, wiping out 45% of his trade, and has now clawed back the business selling 11.5mlpa of fuel from his 12-pump site with a Spar shop and he recently invested in a Subway franchise.
Now BP is proposing to build an 18-pump service station and two-storey drive-through McDonald’s between the A2 and his site, and its planning documents even appear to assume that his site will be wiped out.
A transport survey supporting the application asserted that all the trips currently going to his site will transfer to the new development, and that signs currently directing traffic from the A2 to his site would in future direct traffic to the new site.
The development was given permission on January 15, meaning there was a very short consultation over the planning application for such a large development, said Simon, especially considering part of that period was over Christmas and New Year. He has vowed to fight on and has plenty of support locally, but says it is a case of a huge business trampling over a small businessman. He said: “This site is my pension. I’ve put my whole life into it. We’re reviewing our options, but they have an endless bucket of money to fight this with.
“I can’t understand the ethics or the morality of what they are doing. The profits from this one site will be meaningless to a company of BP’s size, but it is everything to me.”
Forecourt Trader asked BP whether it has any policies about company owned sites competing with its customers’ sites, and whether it was ethical to open such a large development so near to one of its customer’s sites, but it declined to answer.
Instead, in a statement BP said: “We are sorry that Mr Privett is upset at the current situation. We have been corresponding with him on this matter and have had a good relationship with Mr Privett as a dealer for many years. BP Oil UK Limited previously owned and operated the Turnpike service station at Northfleet, Gravesend, adjacent to the northbound carriageway of the former A2 trunk road. The service station and the land on which it was built was purchased by the Highways Agency in October 2006 under a compulsory purchase order.
“BP has therefore, since that date, been interested in finding another site in a similar area which would benefit from the re-routed A2. At the time of negotiating the fuel supply agreement with Mr Privett BP was unable to disclose that it was interested in the Tollgate site (due to the discussions with the Highways Agency being at an early stage and of a confidential nature).
“Mr Privett was however aware of the possibility of the site being developed for the purposes of a service station and a specific break clause was agreed to cover this possible eventuality. We are of course sorry that when discussions with the Highways Agency reached the stage whereby BP was in a position to submit a planning application that Mr Privett found out from a third party rather than from BP directly. We have apologised to Mr Privett regarding this omission.”