I felt that I needed to post something over the weekend about supermarkets, but when I thought about what I needed to say, I realised that the comments would be absolute no-brainers, but they are statement that I needed to make just so people would know that I do understand the issues and that I am trying to deal with them. So if I am stating the obvious, I'm sorry.
Firstly, is is quite clear that the situation is a complete mess
. There is a debate about whether the decision last week had a legal basis to it and whether it is a good planning decision (a debate that I am better off not entering into publicly), but that is only part of the problem. Morally there was no way that decision should have been made in the way it was last week - and that lack of moral judgement has completely undermined confidence in the planning system. For Whittlesey that is a huge problem because we not only face having to sort this out, but the feedback I have received from the public exhibition about the proposed housing development in Delph in Whittlesey, is that people feel their voice will be ignored in that process as well.
That is the biggest disaster - after the initial decision a month ago, people were so upbeat about how it was arrived at. It is astonishing that the process could have gone from a resounding success to a disaster in such a short time.
Serious questions need to be asked about this whole thing - not just about the Whittlesey supermarket saga, but what it says about our planning system as a whole. I have been working and thinking about this over the weekend and will be passing some thoughts and ideas to Fenland.
I have had many, many people contact me about this sorry saga. On Thursday night I was literally just swapping between my mobile and my home phone taking phone call after phone call from District and Town Councillors and from local residents, all universally expressing their shock. I repeat the message that I have been giving to everyone - and one that I often give out when people have complaints about Councils; please make your voice heard by using Fenland's comments,compliments and complaints process.
Ever since the first decisions on 29th August, I have challenged what was happening and I was continuously getting back reassurance that all was fine, so I was astonished by the events of last week. That said, obviously, if you think there were areas where I did the wrong thing, don't be afraid to tell me
. I honestly don't think there are, I have been honest, robust and challenging throughout this process - which is what I am elected to do, but I am sure there are others who think otherwise. In particular, I keep going back and revisiting my decision to support Sainsbury, but I am convinced it was both the right planning decision and the one that Whittlesey residents supported, it also hurts me that I had to reveal the assurance all members were given
by Fenland on 6th September. That sort of action is not my style at all and it didn't come easy.
I don't believe we are close to the end of this saga yet, so expect a few more headlines in coming weeks.