Some of you have probably read that Sainsbury have given Fenland District Council a list of tasks which it wants them to comply with, alongside a threat of legal action if they do not comply. These tasks include:
“Acknowledge that the decision to grant Sainsbury’s (subsequently ratified on 19th
September) and refuse Harrier on 29th August remain valid.”
The suggestion that this is going to court and is going to cost Council Tax payers money is something that I take no pleasure in – although I have been predicting that this whole dispute would end up in court for a number of years.
Unfortunately, I have also felt that this outcome was inevitable as soon as the proposed solution to rehear both planning applications was decided upon – and I made that view clear to Fenland District Council, it is not helped by the fact that no-one seems to understand what is legally wrong with the Sainsbury decision; providing absolute clarity about why an additional meeting was needed would help everyone – especially the general public.
I also want to make sure there is clarity about where I stand on these applications. Be in no doubt that I believe that the Sainsbury application with the Country Park is what the majority of Whittlesey residents want, but more than that, I believe it is clearly the best planning application. However, I am also sensible enough to understand that there are those that have a different view to mine and that a decision to support a Tesco store is a possibility. Whatever decision is made in the end, I want Whittlesey people to be absolutely confident in the motives for that decision, that whatever the outcome it is for all the right reasons. At the moment I do not believe that confidence can exist, that gap in understanding is the big issue at the moment. You only have to read the comments on various social networking sites to see the suspicions that are out there. I have to say that, unfortunately, the decision to rehear the applications in Wisbech St Mary rather than Whittlesey only adds to those suspicions; it is a mistake and I make no apologies for the fact that I have argued hard at Fenland for the proposed January meeting to be held I Whittlesey; I make absolutely no apologies for standing up for Whittlesey in this mess, it’s what I am here to do.
Please do not mistake the fact that I am being strong on this matter as meaning that I will do anything for a Sainsbury approval. Yes, I support the Sainsbury applicaton, but I am big enough and ugly enough to know that Councillors sometimes don’t get their way. What I am being robust about is the need for clarity, the need for a strong decision and ta decision that Whittlesey people can be confident in.
Immediately after this situation turned into a mess in September, I requested that Fenland District Council call in the Local Government Ombudsman to investigate the affair, to get underneath it and to make clear exactly what happened and why and then use that investigation as a basis for moving forwards. I still cannot see how a planning meeting can be held to re-hear these applications when people genuinely don’t know exactly what happened to create the problem, don't know why both applications need to be reheard and whilst there is still an air of suspicion around the whole affair.
The first step in this process should always have been to provide absolute clarity. Regretfully, I do not feel we are anywhere close to a point where we can say we have it.