The owner of a BP garage, who 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, has forced his local council to reconsider its decision.
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 a Subway franchise.
But last year BP applied for permission to build an 18-pump service station and two-storey drive-through McDonald’s between the A2 and his site, and its planning application even appeared to assume that his site would be wiped out.
The development was given planning permission on January 15, but Simon applied for a judicial review of the decision and the council caved in before it went to court and the decision was quashed.
Simon said there were several valid reasons why the council should not have awarded planning permission but it only conceded one point, that it had not properly taken into account paragraph 89 of the National Planning Policy Framework – about what is acceptable in the Green Belt.
Despite this the council said it would reconsider the planning application at a meeting in November or December and Simon commented: “It appears to be good news because we won, and if it’s quashed you’d think that would be the end of it, but if it just means it gets passed again then there’s no reason to celebrate.”
Local press reports said the council had paid all Simon’s legal costs for the challenge, but he said they had grudgingly agreed to pay £20,000, when the true cost was £23,000.
At the time of the original planning permission Simon described it as 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.”
At the time BP said it was sorry Simon was upset, but it had a filling station in the area which was demolished to make way for the re-routing of the A2 and it was seeking to replace it.
Forecourt Trader approached BP after the planning permission but it said it was reviewing the decisions that had been made and could not comment further at present.