What an interesting experience today was. The more I sat in the audience, the more I realised that, for this meeting, I belonged there rather than on the committee. I would really have struggled to remain objective through that meeting.
Anyway Sainsbury won the day today, after numerous hours of people presenting evidence and lots of arguments on both sides. So we have a decision to develop a country park, a new Sainsbury and a business park along Eastrea Road, the Tesco application along Eastrea Road was refused.
I would add a word of caution, even though I believe a strong and robust decision was made today (and thanks to the planning committee for that) there are still the possibilities of either an appeal or a judicial review of the decisions.
I hope that doesn’t happen. It became quite clear today that Tesco have totally failed to endear themselves to Whittlesey people. Whoever made the decision to flypost “support Tesco” posters around Town when there are already comments about bullying and monopolisation being made seriously needs to ask themselves some questions. I made the point at the start of the meeting today that you do not endear yourselves to Whittlesey people by spoiling our Town in this way.
Whenever I presented today, I tried to be objective, giving the planning committee good, solid planning issues to think about, rather than just going for a “support Sainsbury” mantra.
I did go for a quick beer with the Sainsbury Team today after the meeting. A chance for me to chat to them and get their views about the day, about the way forward as well as to give them a few ideas about the hopper bus. I stress this was after the event, not before, but I did enjoy it.
Whist it was clear to me that I was on the right side of the table today, I want to add a word of support for the planning committee. Planning is really, really tough at times; I have had to make decisions in the past that have flown in the face of public opinion because it was clear to me that the planning evidence meant it was the right thing to do. People should understand that to make or support an unpopular proposition on planning can be a real sign of personal strength. I would also add that it is just as tough for members of the public to sit at committee and speak against popular opinion, and is an act that should be respected.
I also want to put in a word for Cllr Dee Laws who spoke on behalf of Whittlesey Town Council and did a great job of representing the views of the Town.
I have now agreed to join the friends of the country park group for Sainsbury, and I hope we can look forward to common sense prevailing and a country park and Sainsbury store being delivered to serve our Town as soon as as possible.