Perseverance pays off as Sainsbury’s get committee’s approval for a supermarket and country park in Whittlesey

PUBLISHED: 16:59 22 June 2015 | UPDATED: 16:59 22 June 2015

Whittlesey Sainsbury's and Business park. Planning meeting at Fenland Hall. March. Applicant, Bruce Smith. Picture: Steve Williams.

Whittlesey Sainsbury's and Business park. Planning meeting at Fenland Hall. March. Applicant, Bruce Smith. Picture: Steve Williams.

Archant

Sainsbury’s revised plans for a supermarket and country park in Whittlesey have been unanimously approved.

At a packed Fenland Hall today, councillors voted in favour of the proposal to bring a “long awaited” supermarket to the town.

As he left the meeting developer Bruce Smith –who has fought the get the project off the ground for five years- had tears in his eyes. He said he was “overwhelmed” by the decision.

Councillors also approved a business park next to the Sainsbury’s site. The business park will be focused on “health and wellbeing”, with discussions already taking place for a 6.5 acre health centre there.

Fenland District Council Planning Committee heard a passionate plea from Councillor Dee Laws, representing Whittlesey Town Council, to approve the application.

Whittlesey Sainsbury's and Business park. Planning meeting at Fenland Hall. March.Objector, Ian Forster, Picture: Steve Williams.Whittlesey Sainsbury's and Business park. Planning meeting at Fenland Hall. March.Objector, Ian Forster, Picture: Steve Williams.

She said the country park would be “our Ferry Meadows” and outlined the economic benefits it would bring.

She said: “People will no longer have to travel seven miles to Peterborough, or go to March or Wisbech.

“Building the store will create local jobs. We should grab this opportunity with both hands. Please listen to the overwhelming majority of the people in Whittlesey.”

And in an aside aimed at Tesco – who commissioned, built but then never opened a supermarket she added: “Don’t let us be another Chatteris”

Whittlesey Sainsbury's and Business park. Planning meeting at Fenland Hall. March. Cllr Dee Laws.Picture: Steve Williams.Whittlesey Sainsbury's and Business park. Planning meeting at Fenland Hall. March. Cllr Dee Laws.Picture: Steve Williams.

Up next was objector Ian Forster, director of scuba diving company Dive In Ltd, of the nearby Gildenburgh Water estate.

Mr Forster said he had supported the initial application but changed his stance after revised plans were submitted for a three arm roundabout (instead of a four arm roundabout proposed in the initial application). This “dramatic” alteration would “downgrade” access to Gildenburgh Water, he said.

Mr Smith, of Whitacre management, praised Sainsbury’s for their dedication to the scheme during the lengthy planning process.

He said: “I’ve been working with Sainsbury’s for five years. I’m sure there are doubters out there (about whether the store will get built) but I’m confident I will deliver it.

Whittlesey Sainsbury's and Business park. Planning meeting at Fenland Hall. March. Picture: Steve Williams.Whittlesey Sainsbury's and Business park. Planning meeting at Fenland Hall. March. Picture: Steve Williams.

“Sainsbury’s has been through the mill yet are still behind me. I’m confident they will build the store and the country park, which have tremendous support.”

Bernard Gray-Esson, vice chairman of Whittlesey Country Park, said the group’s meetings had “excellent” turnouts (they have 300 volunteers involved) but its future was “dependent” on Sainsbury’s getting approval.

Sean McGrath, of Indigo Planning, said: “This application doesn’t raise any new planning issues. The store will give choice for Whittlesey residents and create new jobs.

“Instead of going to Peterborough or elsewhere, they will have a state of the art facility on their doorstep and a country park which will transform this part of Whittlesey.

“The people of Whittlesey have made it crystal clear what they want.”

After having heard the speeches, the committee came to a swift and decisive verdict.

Councillor Kit Owen spoke first, describing the alterations as “minor” and declaring his support for the application.

His stance was echoed by Councillor Dave Connor, who described the store as “long awaited”.

Councillor Will Sutton praised officers for their “good” work throughout the planning process in light of some “below the belt” criticism on social media.

After the vote, Cllr Connor added: “Due diligence has been carried out by officers and members of the planning committee.

“We need to move on with this swiftly and in an orderly and constructive manner.”

REVISED PLANS

The proposal is for a food store, petrol station, parking, three roundabouts and a 54 acre country park at the Eastrea Road site.

Under the revised plans, a four arm roundabout has been changed to a three arm roundabout, with the site boundary slightly amended.

A petition pushing for Fenland District Council to approve planning consent has been signed by 350 people.

Objector Ian Forster said the revised plans will “prejudice” local businesses.

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