Judgement Day : Will Appeal Court ruling on ‘supermarketgate’ mean the builders can start on Whittlesey store?
14:36 21 July 2014
Harrier Developments has lost its last remaining hope of stopping Sainsbury’s from building a superstore on the outskirts of Whittlesey.
The ‘supermarketgate’ battle ended in the Court of Appeal with a ruling by Lord Justice Sullivan.
He had been given the task of deciding whether the Manea based company, which is now completing a Tesco store in Chatteris, could appeal against an earlier judgement by the High Court in respect of their proposals for Whittlesey.
That court had ruled an application for a judicial review of Fenland Council’s planning committee’s decisions were “without merit”, a view supported by Lord Justice Sullivan.
In his judgement today he said the sole ground of appeal - “the rationality challenge” -although presented in a number of permutations hinged on Harrier’s contractual arrangements with Tesco over a site in Station Road.
He said it had been acknowledged that Whittlesey could only sustain one supermarket of this size and it was a case for the planning committee to decide what weight should be given to such arrangements.
Lord Justice Sullivan said that the committee gave “little weight because of the deliverability issues” that had been thrown up in a consultant’s report. As the planning committee had been advised, he said, contracts can be varied for commercial reasons but in any case it was “pre-eminently a matter of planning judgement.
“With the benefit of hindsight subsequent events may prove that the committee’s judgement on this issue was wrong but that is a very far cry from establishing an arguable case that the committee’s judgement when granting permission was irrational”.
Developer Bruce Smith, who had submitted the application for the Eastrea Road site when Sainsbury’s will now build, received the news at his holiday hotel in Barbados.
“To say I am delighted is an understatement,” he said. “This is excellent news for Sainsbury’s and terrific news for the people of Whittlesey who had campaigned long and hard to support a Sainsbury’s bid.”
Mr Smith will also oversee development of a country park and a small commercial/industrial complex as part of the overall project.