Sainsbury’s blame legal battle and changing world of shopping for refusing to commit to start date for Whittlesey

The entrance to Gildenburgh Water Dive In Centre Whittlesey where the new Sainsburys store is to be

The entrance to Gildenburgh Water Dive In Centre Whittlesey where the new Sainsburys store is to be built. - Credit: Archant

Sainsbury’s has put on hold a new superstore at Whittlesey blaming, in part, a legal challenge which took it out of the current building programme.

Coincidentally the court battle which delayed the store winning consent was mounted by Harrier Developments, the same firm behind the Tesco store at Chatteris which was mothballed earlier this week (see Page 3).

Sainsbury’s says it cannot confirm a start date for their Eastrea Road, Whittlesey, store which means a linked country park can also not get under way.

A spokesman said: “The legal challenge against our planning permission has meant that we have been unable to include our proposed Whittlesey supermarket on our current construction timetable.

“Now the judgement on the legal action has been made we need to further assess a number of technical challenges before a timetable can be confirmed.

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“The food retail market is extremely competitive and has changed considerably since our proposals in Whittlesey were first announced.

“As such a start date for construction cannot be confirmed at this stage.

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“We are continuing to review the plans with the aim to bring a new store to Whittlesey and will update the community once this process has been completed.”

Three years ago the supermarket chain made its first bid for a 32,000sq ft store providing jobs for around 250 people alongside a 54-acre country park.

At that time local developers acting for Sainsbury’s and Tesco were in a planning war - both chains wanted to build a store in the town but it was a fight to the finishing line.

Public meetings and the era of ‘supermarketgate’ led to planning committee resignations and sackings before permission for the Sainsbury’s scheme was approved.

However what followed were challenges for a judicial review and High Court actions.

Harrier, run by Manea based Richard Sears, had earlier gained permission for a Tesco store along Benwick Road but switched preference for Eastrea once March based Bruce Smith unveiled his Sainsbury’s scheme.

Fenland Council conceded the “level of local support and the perseverance of supporters” had been fundamental in securing Sainsbury’s their permission.

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