Unanimous approval for 41,000 square feet supermarket at Soham providing developers reveal who will run it
- Credit: Archant
RAPTUROUS applause greeted unanimous approval for a 41,000 sq ft supermarket on the outskirts of Soham.
But councillors insisted that Harrier Developers reveal which supermarket chain will run the store before a decision notice is issued.
The planning committee of East Cambridgeshire District Council supported Harrier’s application even though officers had recommended it for refusal.
They claimed it would threaten the town centre’s vitality and particularly the Budgens store in Clay Street.
Around 70 members of the public squeezed into the council chamber yesterday to hear the plans discussed. Only two spoke against the proposals but eight spoke in support including outgoing district council chairman, Councillor Tony Parramint, his colleague Councillor James Palmer – the new council leader- and town council chairman Rosemary Aitchison.
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Soham resident Jim Collen said: “Ninety-five per cent of people want this supermarket, and so why should Soham not have it? Why should we have a handful of people saying what we can and can’t do, it’s up to the planning committee to vote for what the people want.”
Cllr Aitchison said: “I have been very concerned about information circulating about the possible sale of Budgens to one of the major supermarket chains if this plan is refused.
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“I cannot see that is relevant and urge you to ignore it. There have been two public meetings in the town and the huge majority of people were in favour of the new supermarket, pub and filling station,”
Harrier Developments of Manea has spent a year waiting for councillors to vote on their plans which include a supermarket, pub/restaurant, petrol station and 282 car parking spaces on land at The Shade.
Their planning consultant, David Pritchard, said three leading retailers have shown an interest in The Shade site “although I am not able to disclose those names but your officers have seen letters of interest”.
Opposing the plan, Soham resident Charles Warner said: “This is the wrong development in the wrong place.
“If we are to have a new supermarket, it should be as near to the High Street as possible.
“To approve this plan would set out the long term decline of the town and it should be thrown out.”
Julian Sutton, representing Budgens, said Harrier’s scheme did not comply with the Soham Masterplan and that building a new store on a green site was not sustainable development.
“All four major retailers have dismissed the new supermarket site, so who do they think will take it?” he said. “If you truly want to deliver a new food store for Soham, you should refuse this application.”
NO other town the size of Soham has no supermarket said resident David Lunn who said infrastructure has not kept pace with growth.
“We should not squeeze a supermarket in the town centre when there is a perfectly suitable site on the edge of town,” he said. “Local people should be empowered to shape their surroundings.”
Soham resident Colin Fordham told the committee: “I really believe this new supermarket should happen and Budgens will survive. I beg you to do the right thing.”
Cllr Palmer said: “To expect people to drive a 14-mile round trip to do a major shop is not what we should be doing.
“Sometimes we have to show the way and sometimes we have to listen. I feel Soham needs infrastructure and needs a supermarket that people want to shop in.”
Councillor Michael Allan referred to the 665 comments of support and 51 letters of objection.
“That is a winner don’t you think Mr Chairman? If that was an election, the loser would lose their deposit,” he said. “Please pass this, the people of Soham want it, give it to them.”
Cllr Parramint said he was concerned that it had taken a year for the application to be brought before the committee.
He was also disappointed that James Graven had not proceeded with their earlier planning permission for retail development.
“This application will add to what Soham needs to be which, an interesting and advantageous place to live,” he added.
Committee member Councillor Mike Rouse said: “Eighty per cent of people are driving out of Soham to shop, and that is not sustainable. If Budgens was going to answer the problem it would have solved it by now.”
He said Jim Collen and Colin Fordham were “the authentic voice of Soham,” and said 106 money from the developers could be used to improve the town centre. He said the proposed supermarket was on a good site, and pointed out the new jobs it would create.
Councillor Joshua Schumann proposed that the committee rejected the officer’s recommendation and after that was approved unanimously his proposal to approve the plan subject to conditions being agreed was also supported unanimously.
TWENTY minutes before the meeting started, it looked as if some members of the public would not get into the meeting.
Angry residents were met by staff in the foyer, to be told that the council chamber was already full, and to admit more people was against fire regulations.
It was then decided that everyone could be admitted, if they agreed to stand.
Soham town councillor Anne Pallett was angry at facing the prospect of missing the meeting.
“They knew it was going to be a big debate and maybe they should have hired a hall,” she said.
Beryl Giblett said: “I tried to register to speak yesterday, but was told all the slots were taken. I got to the council offices half an hour before the meeting started to be told I could not go in. It was ridiculous.”