SUPERMARKET-GATE: Sainsbury’s warn of legal action ahead after planning chief urges committee to go ahead with Tesco

THE threat of a huge legal battle loomed large today after furious Sainsbury’s bosses totally rejected “a highly flawed” bid by Fenland Council to get ‘supermarket gate’ back on track.

Sean McGrath, Sainsbury’s planning adviser, emphasised that the supermarket giant was totally opposed to going back to committee for another determination of their Whittlesey application.

The council is hoping both Sainsbury’s and Tesco will agree to return to planning committee in January to resolve which store wins the day.

Despite winning approval at a planning meeting in Whittlesey, Sainsbury’s now finds itself back in contention with Tesco after they too gained approval at a subsequent meeting.

The papers for the January meeting have been circulated by Graham Nourse, Fenland’s planning chief, whose advice is to reject the Eastrea Road store for Sainsbury’s, reject an adjoining country park and industrial estate, and approve the bid by Harrier Developments on behalf of Tesco.

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Mr Nourse insists the Tesco option is “considered preferable” over the Sainsbury’s site which he claims is in open countryside and not at all suitable for major development.

He also believes no justification for a business park has been provided.

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Robert Oxley, Sainsbury’s development executive, said: “Fenland has still not provided us with any justification as to why our planning application should be reconsidered.”

People in Whittlesey had made it clear they preferred Sainsbury’s coupled with a country park and associated business area, he said.

Mr McGrath said: “The report to committee is a highly flawed document that fails to take account of many material considerations and misrepresents many others.”

He claimed Mr Nourse and his team were failing in their duty to advise the committee of the true facts of the case

“We entirely reject the process upon which Fenland District Council has now embarked.” he said.

Legal advice, he said, was being sought on how best to respond.

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