Crisis talks tomorrow will try and resolve supermarket-gate as Martin Curtis calls for people to complain about this ‘complete mess’
WHITTLESEY councillor Martin Curtis has described his astonishment at watching the Tesco v Sainsbury debate go from “resounding success to a disaster in such a short time.”
His comments came on the eve of a make or break emergency meeting of Fenland Council’s Cabinet at which Council Leader Alan Melton will attempt to resolve the growing crisis at Fenland Hall.
Three Cabinet members have already been told they’re not welcome at tomorrow’s meeting – all members of the planning committee who changed sides and voted last week for Tesco despite officers’ advice.
Those sidelined for tomorrow’s meeting include Councillor Jan French, ironically the Cabinet member for planning performance. She is alleged to have told fellow Cabinet member Pop Jolley of her intent to re visit the Tesco bid, an allegation if true that would constitute pre determination and is illegal within planning circles.
Sainsbury’s has called the decision to agree to both their application and now Tesco alongside their store “as the most crazy and perverse decision” they have encountered.
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Cllr Curtis, who withdrew from vice chairmanship and membership of the planning committee during debates over the supermarket issue at Whittlesey, described the current situation as “a complete mess”.
He is scathing of colleagues who manipulated the committee last week in approving Tesco’s application for a supermarket along the Sainsbury store in Eastrea Road.
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“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,” he said.
“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.”
Cllr Curtis said: “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.”
Cllr Curtis said ever since the decision to support Sainsbury’s application and refuse Tesco’s last month “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.”
He said he supported Sainsbury because that was the supermarket wanted Whittlesey residents.
“I don’t believe we are close to the end of this saga yet, so expect a few more headlines in coming weeks,” he said.
Among many complaints already sent to Fenland Council is one which claims the decision to allow Tesco’s application went against the authority’s own localism agenda.