WHITTLESEY STORE WARS: Residents angry as Fenland Council’s planning committee defer both applications

RESIDENTS were visibly shocked when a four-hour Fenland District Council Planning Committee meeting last night deferred planning applications from Tesco and Sainsbury’s.

Town councillor Dee Laws said: “I am extremely disappointed. Residents are disillusioned with the planning process, we had waited for this day to come, but are very disappointed that officers had not been more thorough in obtaining their reports before the meeting.”

Bernard Gray-Esson of Eastrea said: “They should have made a decision today; councillors have taken the easy option to defer.”

Joanne Whitwell added: “The town deserved a decision today.”

The stumbling block came when councillors discovered that the council’s retail consultants had not looked at the viability of a Tesco store that still has outstanding planning permission in Station Road, if Sainsbury’s was given the go-ahead.

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Both applications under discussion were for sites in Eastrea Road but Tesco promised to quash its Station Road plan if it gets the go-ahead for its new site.

Council officers had recommended the approval of the Tesco store because it was “ a more natural extension to the town as it abuts the boundary”, but had recommended rejection of Sainsbury’s plan because it “does not represent the most sustainable location for a foodstore to serve Whittlesey”.

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Councillor Martin Curtis said he felt the town favoured the Sainsbury’s plan – but told the meeting that “the issue about the planning permission for Station Road needs to be given considerable weight.

“The railway crossing is closed 28 minutes out of every hour, so I challenge whether any superstore there is viable if any store was approved in Eastrea Road.

“That has not been considered by our consultants and that to me is the crux of the decision today. We have to make a decision that can be upheld in the courts or on appeal.

“I would be reluctant to approve two supermarkets, We have got to get this right; this is about the long term future of our town.”

A separate planning application from businessman Bruce Smith – who is the mastermind behind the Sainsbury’s scheme – to set up a business park next door to the proposed supermarket was also deferred.

That had been recommended for refusal by officers.

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