EXCLUSIVE: Next round of ‘supermarket-gate’ decision making to switch from Whittlesey to Wisbech St Mary

FENLAND Council has decided NOT to hold a second planning meeting in Whittlesey to discuss ‘supermarket-gate’ and instead will hold it in a village hall 15 miles away.

Councillor Alan Melton and his Cabinet team agreed that Fenland Hall would not be big enough but instead of going back to Whittlesey will hold the meeting at Wisbech St Mary village hall.

Cllr Melton says the decision was the choice of his planning committee and that Cabinet had only put forward Wisbech St Mary as a suggestion.

However planning committee member Dave Patrick said he felt the suggestion of Wisbech St Mary was stronger than a recommendation “and more akin I felt to an instruction.”

Cllr Patrick has already said he will boycott voting on the supermarket applications, claiming the original decision to allow Sainsbury’s and reject Tesco should stand.

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Fenland Council has tonight refused to confirm the switch of venue, although I understand Whittlesey Town Council wanted the meeting back at the Manor Leisure Centre.

Over 250 people attended the first meeting in August which approved Sainsbury’s but not Tesco although the latter was controversially approved the following month. That later decision has meant the council having to re hear both applications – a move rejected by Sainsbury’s.

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I understand Whittlesey councillor Martin Curtis, who has led the campaign for Sainsbury’s, had a blazing argument at Shire Hall, Cambridge, after being told of the switched venue by Cllr Melton.

At yesterday’s planning committee our reporter Elaine King was present and expected a public announcement on the January venue.

She said: “At the beginning of the meeting, chairman Phil Hatton announced: ‘The next meeting will be in five weeks time. Instead of it being on January 9, it will be on January 16; and the site visits will be on January 9 instead of January 2.”

She said: “No venue for the meeting was mentioned”.

However Cllr Patrick said the ratification of Wisbech St Mary came later in the meeting and after the public agenda had been concluded.

Cllr Curtis said on Twitter tonight that he wanted a decision “Whittlesey people can have confidence in, no more, no less.”

He also tweeted that he felt court action by Sainsbury’s against Fenland Council “was inevitable since September 19 and before.”

New vice chairman of planning, Councillor Dave Connor, tweeted: “Councillors Patrick and Archer (Mark Archer, independent member for Manea) have a lot to say re supermarkets. Is the reason for not sitting on the committee vote catching?”

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