East Cambs deputy leader tells town meeting he’s ‘slightly in favour’ of 41,000 square feet Soham superstore

SOHAM milk roundsman James Palmer, a county councillor and deputy leader of East Cambs District Council, says at the moment he is “slightly in favour” of a proposed 41,000 square feet superstore for the town.

Cllr Palmer told the annual town council meeting however, that no one has said the district council as planning authority “is going to recommend approval. Very likely officers will recommend this site is not suitable but it will come down to a committee decision.”

He said the town council had looked at the plans put forward by Manea developer Richard Sears “and they think its right to support them. It is only a recommendation to the district”. Core strategy, master plan and sequential tests needed would be “a very real part of the planning process”.

But Cllr Palmer acknowledged the issue had divided the town and “some desperately want the supermarket, some desperately don’t. I am a trader in this town and it will affect me too.

“I am slightly in favour however I will not make the decision- that will be the planning committee who has the last say”.


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Cllr Palmer is taking legal guidance from East Cambs District Council as to whether he can address the planning committee following the disclosure he met Richard Sears last year.

“I had a meeting with Mr Sears with regards to issues in Ely he was interested in,” said Cllr Palmer.

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Fenland Council leader Alan Melton said he brokered the meeting with Mr Sears in Ely after being approached by Cllr Palmer.

Cllr Palmer insisted that land owned by his family in Soham did not prohibit him from speaking about the Soham superstore “and I am entirely confident that at all times I have acted fairly, rightly and without prejudice.”

The councillor said land which “belongs to my father and not me” on the by pass near Greenhills/Brook Street in the south of Soham should not affect his ability to speak about development elsewhere.

“I do not see why it makes any difference to a planning application for a supermarket in the north of Soham.”

He said his family’s holdings were “listed publicly and I have nothing to hide.”

Cllr Palmer said it would be totally wrong to suggest that he, as deputy council leader, “would or could have an influence over the planning committee with regard to the Soham supermarket or any other planning application.”

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