Could fresh legal challenge be the straw that breaks Sainsbury’s back? Is Whittlesey supermarket now in doubt?

11:45 10 June 2014

Whittlesey

Whittlesey 'supermarket-gate'

Archant

A fresh legal challenge could delay for up to four months Sainsbury’s bid to build a supermarket on the outskirts of Whittlesey.

And there is growing concern that the supermarket firm might pull out altogether if the legal uncertainty continues.

Just weeks after a High Court judge ruled an opposing developer’s objections to the Sainsbury store were “totally without merit” the issue is now to go the Court of Appeal.

Although Harrier Developments lost out on their bid to force a judicial review of Fenland Council’s granting of permission to Sainsbury, the Manea based firm run by Richard Sears is still hopeful of renewing a legal challenge.

He has submitted an application to the Court of Appeal against a ruling which prohibits him from contesting the earlier decision.

I understand Mr Sears has lodged an application to the Court of Appeal but it could be weeks, if not months before it is heard.

Legal and planning advisers to Whitacre Developments – the successful applicant behind the Eastrea Road Sainsbury site and run by March businessman Bruce Smith- face continuing uncertainty.

Although Mr Smith’s professional advisers believe the Court of Appeal bid to be akin to a tactical manoeuvre to generate uncertainty they are fearful the further delay could by the straw that breaks Sainsbury’s back.

Sainsbury, Mr Smith and his advisers have declined to comment on the latest move but they are clearly anxious that the longer the legal uncertainty continues the greater the risk remains of the supermarket chain pulling out altogether.

In the recent planning appeal court ruling, Mr Justice Mitting said Fenland Council’s decision to award planning permission for the Sainsbury’s store was a classic case for the exercise of judgement by the planning committee and head of planning.

He said: “Both reached decisions which they were entitled to reach for good reason. Hence the decision to refuse permission (for Tesco’s Eastrea Road plan) and the statement that the application is totally without merit.”

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