POLL: Sainsbury’s hoping its new Whittlesey store will be a stroll in the park

IT may look a typical Fenland scene and indeed for now that’s all it is but this could soon become a 59 acre country park next door to a Sainsbury superstore.

The supermarket chain is days away from going head to head with Tesco to see if either or both can persuade councillors to allow a superstore on the outskirts of Whittlesey.

Sainsbury believe they have the edge, promising not only a well funded (�400,000) Country Park but also promising to open up 11 further acres for jobs or perhaps even a family pub.

Bruce Smith, the March based businessman who has put together the scheme for Sainsbury, says he’s not too troubled if Fenland District Council Planning Committee approve both schemes at a special meeting on May 9.

“Competition will do the town good,” he says, but not too convincingly.

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On Monday afternoon farmer Martin Whitwell, whose land will be absorbed by the development, explained the work that has gone on to launch a Friends of Whittlesey Country Park Group.

He said local volunteers have been discussing what the park could include and ways to secure maintenance funding in the long term – Sainsbury and Mr Smith’s Whitwell Management Ltd company have promised to finance it for the first 10 years.

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“We are looking at a number of suggestions to make the country park a place for the whole community to relax and play,” he said.

“We are keen to see the park developed and would welcome ideas from the community to what they would like to see included.”

The applications being decided by Fenland Council will be some of the most scrutinised in recent years with Tesco hinting at a legal challenge if they are denied the chance to build further along the Eastrea Road.

Tesco already has permission for a store in Station Road but believe their scheme for Eastrea Road offers the town a much better option and because of their existing permission should take precedence over Sainsbury.

Jodi Anderson-Smith, the Sainsbury’s spokesman, hit back at Tesco’s claims, insisting public consultations had shown overwhelming support for them.

Mr Smith says the Sainsbury proposals “put something tangible and real back into the community. I was born in Whittlesey and feel great affinity with the town and the country park will be a major asset.”

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