Wednesday, 29 August 2012

Sainsbury win the day

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.


  1. Well I hope Tesco go ahead and build on Station Road site as promised. I shop at both stores so will be very pleased with the outcome and having the choice of both almost on my doorstep. Tesco needn't worry about the railway crossing, I have one to cross on the way to their Hampton shop and the Ramsey shop also. No problem.

  2. Very poor decision. The issues of Sainsburys being in open countryside, its encroachment towards Eastrea and the possibility of having two major stores seem to have been ignored. Now town centre trading is sure to suffer, not only because of Sainsburys, but also for the numerous retail outlets that will take away trade in the business park. Maybe I'm wrong, but in my mind, building an out of town retail park does not translate as 'protecting the vitality of the town centre'...

  3. I equally shop at both stores as we do our main weekly shop in Peterborough and buy the daily essentials from Whittlesey.
    If Tesco’s challenge yesterday’s decision through the courts, then this could take quite a while before it’s resolved right? And we have to wait even longer before we’ll benefit from a new store.
    If Tesco decide not to proceed with a new Eastrea Road store, and revert back to developing Station Road, are they able to construct there as they have an existing consent and still appeal Sainsbury’s? On the basis that they already had planning and a second new store (Sainsbury’s) would have a devastating effect on their business. If they built Station Road could they legally block Sainburys? And ultimately no one build on Eastrea Road?
    Please advise Cllr as it’s getting all rather complicated and we just want a new store.

  4. I wasn't at yesterday's meeting although I would have liked to attend. I understand that both Martin and Dee did a great job. In my opinion the right decision was made. I don't believe 2 supermarkets will kill off the town. People only have a certain amount of money to spend and those who wish to remain loyal to the town centre will do so. I shall continue to use Nisa for bits and pieces like I do now but will simply be able to do my big shop without spending so much on petrol. Some people seem to be against the decision made due to sour grapes or some other unjustified reason and that will always happen. This was morally the right decision. End of! Alison.

  5. Tesco can either appeal the decision or take it to the courts. The fact that the decision yesterday was a good planning decision reduces the likelihood of a court case. But whichever way the decision went yesterday that was possible- in fact, chatting to the Sainsbury team last night, they were saying that thy would have challenged if they had lost the decision.

    Before Tesco build on Station Road they have to clear a number of aspects of the S106 obligations for the site, so they cannot just start building. Given that Tesco were competing against Sainsbury for an alternative site and publicly stated that Eastrea Road was a better site - I suspect the grounds for trying to stop Sainsbury so they can build on Station Road are weak - but I'll leave that to the lawyers.

    From what I can see the only grounds that Tesco have is to prove that their site on Eastrea Road is better in planning terms. As I said yesterday - I don't think that is true, for many, many reasons.

    I don't know what the next step is for Tesco - I do know that the sort of store we are talking about in Whittlesey is not within their current priorities and that they have taken a big PR hit in the way that they have approached the Eastrea Road store.

  6. Most market towns have two major supermarket chains trading there, why do people see Whittlesey as being unable to susutain that situation?
    Co-op stores are usually of the convenience variety and aren't very competititive on price.
    Why do planners see it as part of their job to consider the business case for major stores? Surely major companies will already have done that themselves and more professionally, they're not stupid!
    It's not very professional for Councillors to go for drinks with the winning company after a decision has been taken, it just adds to peoples suspicions of underhand dealings.

    1. Well said! I agree totally. Just supposing Co-op had been the opposing supermarket going for the other Eastrea site...I wonder then if the result would have been the same. I go to Co-op 'Rainbow' Store in Ramsey sometimes. It's a fantastic shop and well worth a visit if you are in the area.

  7. In terms of lack of professionalism, you're wrong. It is entirely professional - if I was doing it beforehand that would be another story. But these guys are (hopefully) going to be delivering a supermarket in Whittlesey, so to touch base with them afterwards is really helpful. Just as an example, although we had a few smiles, I had a serious discussion about some ideas fr the hopper bus service that would, I believe be of mutual benefit to them and to the Town, and I was able to put that across yesterday. I was also able to make sure they knew I would make myself available if this ends up in court.

    The planners role with developments like this - and it is explicit in the National Planning Policy Framework is to protect Town Centres. It is also true that two viable stores would have had an impact on the Town Centre, so it was important to do that analysis of the viability of the proposed Station Road store to inform the final decision - those sorts of analyses of business cases go on all the time.

    1. Martin, I couldn't count how many successful planning applications FDC have approved over the years for my developments, most of which you've been on the the voting bench. How come you've never taken me for a pint afterwards? I'm feeling a complex coming on!!! I have many views regarding our town and it's infrastructure that I would gladly share with you. I could stretch to a packet of crisps too (recession and all that)!!

    2. Slightly different situation. I had put huge effort into this - and it gave me a chance to chat about some Whittlesey issues. Happy to chat any time though (whoever you are!!)

    3. I put huge efforts into my planning applications too!!! I'll be in touch shortly. Have a good weekend.

  8. Both my husband and I were at the Planning Meeting yesterday; the support from the attendees seemed to be overwhelmingly towards Sainsbury's; I am so pleased that they won the day and hope that it is not dragged through the courts. Both Dee Laws and yourself represented Whittlesey in a fair and honest way, I was most impressed. I live in Eastrea, so will no doubt be affected (traffic wise) by a new store and it's development however, I shall be able to save on petrol when going to do a big shop and will look forward to using a Country Park. I feel for the Co-op but they do not carry a full range of goods, nor are their prices competitive. I shall still go to local Whittlesey shops to buy, where they are able offer the best option. That is what we need - choice certainly not another Tesco store. Thank you Councillor Curtis!

  9. Mr Curtis, The purpose of the planning system is to protect amenity and the environment in the public interest – I hope you agree. It is not designed to protect the interests of one person over another. Elected decision makers surely must be accountable to the electorate, and as an electorate I would like to try to understand what has happened here, as I strongly suspect the decision will actually be made by an inspector.

    Not all viewpoints may be relevant to planning, for instance Local support or opposition. Local opposition in itself is not a reason for refusing planning permission. Opposition should be based on valid planning reasons, which can be supported by evidence. These will be considered alongside other planning matters such as planning policies, Government guidance and advice. Weight of local opposition to a scheme does not necessarily mean that an application should be refused. Similarly, local support for a scheme does not mean that planning permission should be granted.

    With regard to determination – I am sure you appreciate that the law requires that all applications for planning permission should be decided in accordance with the policies of the "development plan" – unless material planning considerations indicate otherwise. The decision on any planning application is therefore "policy-led" rather than "influence-led". A decision cannot and should not be made on the grounds of popularity or unpopularity. The framing of the decision by reference to published planning policy prevents the decision on a planning application being made on grounds which are arbitrary, perverse, or subject to impropriety. From what I grasp you were very much instrumental in the committee reaching the decision they did yesterday and stood down from committee because you were pre-determined, supporting JS. You also state that you consider that the decision reached yesterday was supported by policy.

    I would therefore be very grateful if you would be able to help clarify matters and list the policy which supports yesterday’s decision.

    Kindest regards.

  10. I think you need to look at my previous blog posts on this issue as a starter. Other issues raised were that that land set aide for Tesco would be better used for housing, that the Roger Tm and Partners report showed that the Tesco on Station Road would not be viable if either store on Eastrea Road were built and therefore the cumulative impact on the Town Centre would not be the equivalent of two viable stores, which is how the officers had interpreted it. I argued, using evidence from a Shropshire Planning appeal that the sequential test had not looked at linkages to the Town Centre and that the interpretation of the sequential test did not take into account that the difference in distance from Cemetery roundabout to the front door of the two stores was only 70m and therefore that both store should either pass or fail the sequential test.

    There are many more arguments - but the evidence I gave to committee yesterday was not "Whittlesey people have said this, therefore this is what you must do" it was absolutely based on planning evidence. However, I did challenge Tesco when they claimed to have popular support and I did have a go at them for spoiling Whittlesey by flyposting before the event, and I was right to do both.

    1. Well how come on live radio Cambridge this morning the vast majority of Whittlesey people spoken to said they wanted a Tesco. Also, the majority of people I know also living on the south edge of town also wanted Tescos and do not want housing built on that site. Why are we or were we never consulted about this. It seems Whittlesey North, where you did your survey, has all the say or am I reading all the wrong information. The whole thing became very tiresome. I second the views of one of the lady speakers this morning when she said she will continue to go to Tesco at March. They have a fabulous selection of breads and other products I've never seen in Ramsey or Hampton. I was hoping to be able to get these in Whittlesey and save a bit of petrol...but never mind aye!

  11. One of the main reasons I did my survey was because the impression was given at the first planning meeting, by the number of letters received at Fenland, that Tesco had popular support and that was a huge contrast to what I was being told by Whittlesey people from all areas, either around Town, in pus, anon Twitter and Facebook, but it also allowed me to get underneath those reasons and bring out what were and were not planning reasons. I did that in my own Division because that is the area I represent.

    The truth about the letters that were received by Fenland in support of Tesco were that all but one were form letters and all but one were submitted before the Sainsbury application was submitted. I am absolutely certain that the results of my survey reflect opinion across the whole Town - of course not the opinions of everyone, that would be impossible, and that is because they are a direct reflection of what is being told to me by people from right across our Town.

    In terms of housing - if the draft core strategy is anything to go by, someone is going to have to have housing next to them. I will be putting some challenge in about that, but that is the truth of it as it sits at the moment.

    1. I live down Charles Road and I never saw the survey. How was the question asked about Tesco or Sainburys? because if it was just Sainburys on Eastrea Road or Tesco on Station Road, of course everyone in the north will support Sainburys as it's within a stone throw from their houses. Was there a question if "If Sainburys and Tesco were located side by side, which one would you use?" as I expect the result to be Tesco becuase they give better value for money. I actually prefer Sainburys products over Tesco's but peoples shopping choices is down to how much they have available to spend.
      I believe Tesco's location on Eastrea Road is far the best one. we could all cut through the little green off Charles Road and walk there in minutes. To walk to Sainburys, I'd have to walk up Bellmans Rd and then along the A605, and I've measured it from my front door and it is actually further than walking to Whittlesey centre.
      If Station Road became the only option left, ok the railway gates are a pain, but if I had to wait a few minutes there it is still far better than having to drive to Peterborough or March.
      Someone said the proposed Tesco Eastrea Road store is to close to residents, but then approved Sainburys and said the Tesco site should be for housing, would that not then make Sainburys too close to residents when all is built?
      I wrote to Fenland before Sainburys submitted their application in support for the Eastrea Road Tesco site, not because it was Tesco, but I believe it is the best site, my personal preference would be Sainburys on Tesco's site, but that'll never happen.
      I think Tesco will not be happy about losing, and I think they'll want to show how big their muscles are. I don't believe it's over yet.

      Mrs E B, Charles Road, Whittlesey

  12. The survey asked four questions which were tick boxes about the supermarket and then had a text box for people to explain their comments. If it helps the exact questions and a summary of the responses are here:

    The survey covered Whittlesey North Division which is the area I represent - that does not cover Charles Road. But it does cover both areas that are close to the proposed sites, as well as places like Peterborough Road and Snoots which are further away. The survey included a covering letter which gave a broad outline of the options and locations.

    The point about Tesco wanting to show their muscles is well made - and I have said all along that a court battle is an option - it is one of the reasons a strong planning decision and a strong debate was needed. I believe both were achieved. But that is true either way. If Tesco had won the day Wednesday, Sainsbury were likely to go to court - in fact when I chatted to the Sainsbury team after the meeting on Wednesday they confirmed that they would have been looking to the courts if they had lost out.

  13. I understand that Tesco said that if they didn't get the Eastrea Road site they would go ahead and build on the Station Road site. Are they actually able to do this? Looking at the FDC website, when the developers applied to build on the Station Road site, they applied for OUTLINE planning permission, not full. Therefore they only have outline planing permission to build on the site. Since the permission was granted they have reached an agreement with Tesco to provide a site for a supermarket in Whittlesey. If they do decide to move forward with the Station Road site won't they have to apply for full planning permission? And if that is the case can't the council turn it down on the grounds that the town can only sustain one supermarket, and full planning permission has already been given to one on Eastrea Road - Sainsburys. I'm sure that this is far too simplistic, but if this isn't the case, is there actually any difference between outline and full planning permission? I would be grateful for your thoughts.

  14. Outline permission does indeed need another application in order to ratify it. In effect Outline Permission agrees the principle of development on a site and then what is called a reserved matters application is needed to provide the detail.

    That an agreement in principle decision has been made usually means that it is difficult to overturn a Reserved Matters application by revisiting that principle - if they are refused it tends to be on design and detail issues which can normally be overcome.

    However, these are pretty unique circumstances - so if a Reserved Matters application is submitted, we will have to see.