EXCLUSIVE: Fenland’s chief planning officer will stick to backing Tesco in Whittlesey store wars battle

TESCO has critically won next the round of the Whittlesey supermarket row by winning the support of Fenland Council’s planning team.

Chief planning officer Graham Nourse will explain to councillors in a report due for publication on Wednesday why they should support Tesco and not Sainsbury in respective bids for a new out of town superstore.

A decision was postponed in May – and after a four hour meeting- when councillors accepted a proposal from Councillor Martin Curtis to re-consider the viability of the Station Road site for which Tesco had previously obtained consent.

Despite widespread support for Sainsbury, Mr Nourse, chief planning officer, will reaffirm his earlier proposition that the site now planned by Tesco at Eastrea “is a more natural extension to the town as it abuts the boundary”.

He ruled out the neighbouring Sainsbury bid- even though it includes the promise of a country park- as not representing “the most sustainable location for a food store to serve Whittlesey”.

However the recommendation may not win the day as Cllr Curtis has promised the imminent publication of a survey which will likely indicate massive support for the Sainsbury bid.

Cllr Curtis said: “Of course that survey has to inform my thinking. But although I have published some of the interim results in order to stimulate debate- there is loads of work to do on it yet- such as getting an understanding of what are and aren’t planning issues out of the many things that are raised- and giving weight to those issues.

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He said: “There are also still lots of unanswered questions about all of the applications that the survey will not bring out, such as whether any of them will have an unacceptable impact on the A605, what access is best, whether any of the applications will have a disproportionate impact on the town centre - and our town centre is coming out as the biggest Whittlesey issue in the survey.”

Sainsbury executives are thought to be angry at the recommendation from Mr Nourse and will argue forcefully for consent to be handed to them at the August 29 meeting – due to be held at the Manor Leisure Centre in Whittlesey at 2.30pm.

Should the recommendation go against them, Sainsbury are likely to challenge the decision through the courts. The company insists they the best case and primed for a quick start.

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