Tuesday 20 November 2012

The "S" Word Again

Over the last few days a draft report for the proposed repeat supermarket planning meeting has been discussed and, indeed, circulated.  That draft report is just that, a draft, it has been prepared in the run up to January to allow both Sainsbury and Tesco to comment as a way of preventing the technical error that caused the problem after 29th August.  So it is likely that they will change before they are (potentially) discussed by the planning committee in January.

The recommendations in this draft report are exactly the same as they were on 29th August; to refuse the combined Sainsbury Supermarket and Country Park application, to refuse the proposed business park and to approve the Tesco application. I am really disappointed by this and will be putting in some challenge about the reports, in particular about the role of localism in decisions like this, given these comments by the previous Planning Minister.

However, I still have a number of concerns about the proposed January meeting.  Not least that I have my doubts it will happen, my suspicion is that there will be a legal challenge prior to it taking place (although I have no evidence to say this definitely will be the case).

From the very point that these applications descended into chaos I have made the case that Fenland District Council must consider Whittlesey people when they sort things out, to date I don't believe that has happened.  Prior to January's meeting a couple of issues need to be thought about:
  • How can anyone expect Whittlesey people to have confidence in any decision when they do not have a clue why what looked like a perfectly good and legal decision to approve a Sainsbury supermarket and country park is being revisited (and it needs to be stressed that on 29th August Planning Officers at Fenland District Council agreed that the reasons for appoval were good planning reasons)?
  • Don't Whittlesey people have the right to know exactly what the sequence of events was between 29th August when the Tesco supermarket was refused and 19th September when it was so controversially approved? Unless this happens they cannot know that the situation has been properly and appropriately dealt with - and therefore they cannot have confidence that this fresh decision is going to be the open and and honest one that they expect and deserve.  You only have to go and look a some of the comments on various internet forums and social media sites to realise that this is definitely not the case at the moment.
There is one other important issue.  It has been suggested to me that the proposed ratification of the Fenland Core Strategy in December will be used as an opportunity to shore up the planning policy around the supermarket sites in order to strengthen the officer recommendations.  I don't believe that will be the case, but if there are changes to the Core Strategy that relate to the proposed supermarket sites then for the sake of public interest and confidence Fenland District Council must publish the audit trail that demonstrates why any change to the Draft Core Strategy proposals was needed.

I suspect that this blog will again make uncomfortable reading for some, but I am only doing what I need to do, which is to make sure the interests of Whittlesey residents are considered in this process.


  1. whittlesey people again stuffed by FDC perhaps a boundary change would not be such a bad thing. Be better of as a suburb of Gaza the way they treat us... another rocket up the jaxi.... stop your DD's and time to protest at March...

    1. Martin.
      Is Cllr. Hatton fit to do the job as chairman, as he made a complete horlicks of handling the last meeting. We are told that he along with other members of planning have undergone additional training, but does this satisfy you, because it certainly dosn't convince me. He was totally out of order to allow the Tesco issue to continue, as it was not on the agenda for discussion, and then to use his casting vote in support of Tesco was a complete mockery.Cllr Melton needs to assure everyone on the planning committee they must not c**k- up this time, or even moreso should Cllr Melton chair the next meeting ??

  2. Martin.
    What confidence can we draw from the re-appointment of Cllr.Hatton having undergone supposed re-training to be up to the task of chairing any further meetings to do with the supermarkets. Am I right in thinking, as chairman at the previous meeting it was his mis-handling of the agenda which allowed a discussion to take place which resulted in him giving his casting vote in favour of Tesco. If he was a competant chairman this fiasco would never happened. Can a vote of no confidence be passed in his taking the chair at any further meetings.??.
    I regularly attend town council meetings,and would be interested in you comment.

  3. All might find truth if they seek it.

    None will ever find it if they do not apply for it

  4. I take issue with the statement that the majority wanting Sainsbury's. The campaign was for access to cheaper food, that will not happen with them. They were not the least bit interested in the Town until Tesco's 4th proposal over a period of years received approval. Tescos have shown a committment all that time to being in the Town.
    Why are we even considering a development on flood plain? Despite the fact that the Sainsbury's proposed area has not flooded, much of it IS flood plain. Tescos are at least proposing to clear up all the glass, and develop a brownfield site.
    As to country park, a lot of that area is already open with bridleways and footpaths barely used, except by the horseriders. The Nene Way is open, but only used by a limited number of dog walkers. The Manor has plenty of recreation space - do we need more?

    As to the Town not supporting 2 supermarkets - it already has 2! Is anyone considering if either is fair to Kesh's or Co-op - I guess not. But if we are to accept the inevitable, why not give them both permission and let them decide what they want to do then - the traffic etc will not be any greater for one or for 2.

  5. Firstly, thanks for commenting, it is important that both sides of this argument are heard. Here is my view on your comments:

    1. It is very clear to me and others that the majority of Whittlesey residents support the Sainsbury option. That view comes about as a result of an extensive survey I carried out, the results of which I published on this blog. But one of the reasons I did that survey was because there were claims that Tesco had popular support in Whittlesey and that conflicted with what I was hearing from residents. It is also true that Whittlesey business forum and the Town Council support the Sainsbury option and I believe the majority of Town Councillors would support my view that overall, Whittlesey residents support the Sainsbury scheme. That said I also believe the Sainsbury option is the best planning application.

    2. It is not true that Sainsbury only showed interest after Tesco started looking at Eastrea Road as an option. Whilst Tesco submitted the first planning application for Eastrea Road, I believe Sainsbury opened discussions with Fenland about their site before Tesco, but did much more work clearing conditions before they submitted a formal planning application.

    3. The only part of the Sainsbury application that is on a flood plain is the country park none of the building work is.

    4. The land that Tesco propose to build on wil be developed anyway. Part of the reason for the first refusal of the Tesco site was because it was felt that it was better suited to housing. FDC's emerging planning framework sets out a requirement for 1100 houses for Whittlesey but provides no evidence that sufficient land is available - that makes the use of this site very important. I would also add that my view is that in planning terms the location of the Sainsbury store with the country park provides a natural and definable boundary between Whittlesey and Eastrea - something that would not be achieved with a supermarket on the nursery site.

    4. There is a clear defined lack of open space in Whittlesey. One of my bits of reading for the next week is a 2006 study into open space in Fenland. I will probably provide a short blog on this when I have been through it.

    5. There was an analysis of the impact of supermarkets on Whittlesey that evidenced exactly what you are asking, that Whittlesey Town Centre would not be harmed by one out of town supermarket, but would be harmed by two. Whilst it would bother me if a supermarket had a serious impact on Keshco, I really do not give two hoots about the impact on the co-op, one of the reasons that there is such a demand in Whittlesey for a supermarket is because of the high prices charged by our co-op. However, I reinforce the point that the study said Whittlesey town centre could cope with one out of town supermarket,but not two.