Exclusive: Last gasp bid by rival developer to scupper supermarket ‘smacks of desperation’ says Sainsbury’s executive

PUBLISHED: 16:21 24 January 2014 | UPDATED: 16:29 24 January 2014

Bruce Smith of Whitacre Management Ltd shows the plans off for Sainsbury's supermarket, pub, country park. It was Mr Smith who steered through the site against his rival Richard Sears of Harrier.

Bruce Smith of Whitacre Management Ltd shows the plans off for Sainsbury's supermarket, pub, country park. It was Mr Smith who steered through the site against his rival Richard Sears of Harrier.

Archant

Sainsbury’s has launched a bitter attack on a Fenland company’s 11th bid hour to wreck their plans for a supermarket on the outskirts of Whittlesey.

Tesco plans for a store in Whittlesey. The Eastrea Road Site. Tesco plans for a store in Whittlesey. The Eastrea Road Site.

Harrier Developments, registered in the Isle of Man but based at Manea, is headed by Richard Sears and it was his agents who dropped the bombshell at Sainsbury’s feet last night.

Mr Sears lost out a year ago with a rival bid to develop a store for Tesco on land in Eastrea Road but he is not taking defeat lightly.

In a 15 page ‘letter before claim’ delivered yesterday, his planning legal team claim that if Fenland Council allows the Sainsbury’s scheme to go ahead it would be “unlawful and susceptible to judicial review.”

But Robert Oxley, development executive for Sainsbury’s, said the late pressure by Harrier “smacks of desperation. It seems more about delaying us than fighting a genuine legal point.”

Mr Oxley said it was a year to the day yesterday since Fenland Council resolved to grant planning permission for a new Sainsbury’s in Whittlesey.

“The council’s decision to grant planning permission for Sainsbury’s was based upon both planning grounds and popular opinion in Whittlesey,” he said.

“Residents and the local business community were overwhelmingly behind Sainsbury’s plans. Since that decision was taken, the council and Sainsbury’s have been hammering out a legal agreement detailing exactly how the new development will come forward.

“The documents are due to be signed next week allowing Sainsbury’s to finally get on site and begin building the store.”

Mr Oxley said: “If they really felt there was a strong legal case why wait a year until contracts are about to be signed before lodging the judicial review request?”

“Discussion between Sainsbury’s and Fenland Council has been painstaking and thorough over the last year. We now have every single ‘t’ crossed and ‘i’ dotted and their decision stands up to legal scrutiny.

“I urge the council not to be intimidated by Harrier, to sign the legal agreement and let us, at last, get on with building the store Whittlesey residents want.”

Although Tesco decided not to appeal against the council’s decision, it is still expected they would return to the Harrier ‘table’ if a legal challenge were to succeed. Tesco has permission for a store in Benwick Road, Whittlesey, but Eastrea Road might easily be supported again as their preferred location.

The full grounds of Harrier’s case will be explored on line in a later article.

Meanwhile the Whitwell family of Whittlesey, whose land is earmarked for the Sainsbury store, have received the same letter threatening a judicial review and sent a dismissive note in response.

Both Harrier Developments and Fenland Council leader Alan Melton have been asked for a response to Sainsbury’s statement. These are expected later.

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