SUPERMARKET-GATE: BBC Radio Cambridgeshire interviews expose ‘mavericks’ dilemma that goes to heart of Melton’s planning crisis
HOURS after being sacked from his planning committee, Councillor Florence Newell offered Fenland Council Leader Alan Melton her support but still insisted ‘market forces’ should determine supermarket-gate.
“I will never change my mind and I am still of the opinion both Tesco and Sainsbury should be approved and let market forces determine it,” she told BBC Radio Cambridgeshire.
And despite Cllr Melton insisting and on a different Radio Cambridgeshire programme that allowing two superstores would “decimate” the town, Cllr Newell was unrepentant.
Cllr Melton had attacked those “mavericks out there who would say the free market should decide, build them two, build both of them, and let the market decide.
“I’m sorry, but it’s not as simple as that. There are such issues to be taken into concern such as the viability of town centres, which is very important to the local economy.”
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Cllr Newell meanwhile laid the blame at planning officers for their “very misleading” information which, when corrected, meant, in her opinion, Tesco had been given a raw deal.
“I think there were some new councillors (on the planning committee) and they probably didn’t realise advice from planning officers was very misleading,” she told presenter Andie Harper.
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When it came back to be ratified, she said, “some members changed their mind.
“Sainsbury’s still have the go ahead; when this further information came forward about roundabout and land, which had been left out, it made some members of planning committee feel we had been very unfair to Tesco.”
But Cllr Melton had earlier told Paul Stainton on his breakfast show that the council was faced with a major problem now both stores had been approved.
“We have two standing supermarket applications approved, whereas our advice from all of our planning consultants is that Whittlesey can only take one store,” he said.
“This would have meant two stores operating in Whittlesey, (which) would decimate the town centre.”
Cllr Melton also explained why he felt the vice chairman of planning, Councillor Martin Curtis, had to go.
“If you want my opinion, and Martin wants my opinion, I believe, and I did tell Martin this, that he has allowed himself to get too emotionally involved with one particular planning application,” said Cllr Melton.
“And the perception out there, he probably doesn’t want to hear this, but this is a fact, the perception out there is Martin has allowed himself to get too close.”
He added: “What I’m saying is I believe in this instance, that the conduct and the way things were run, it wasn’t run correctly.
“And I intend to do something about that. What I want to do is make one thing quite clear. I’m not suggesting in any way whatsoever that those decisions that were made were wrong.
“That’s for the correct committee to decide. What I’m saying is that when those decisions are made, and for whatever reason they should be purely on planning grounds, and planning grounds only, and not on emotional grounds.”