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Friday, 25 February 2011

Rutland County Council Development and Control Licensing Committee Meeting Tuesday 22 February 2011.

Also Known As: The Sainsbury’s planning application fiasco.

There were three public deputations: Mr Fletton spoke in favour of the officers’ recommendation for refusal of the planning permission for a Sainsbury’s Supermarket to be built at the end of Land’s End Way. Why?

Well this was the elephant in the room. Put at its most simply, if I am right, Waitrose has promised to buy a site on the old Rutland College site when they move to Barleythorpe. Waitrose promise to pay top dollar and the monies will go to RCC, who have to stump up for converting Barleythorpe to a New Further Education College. But no one mentioned this all evening. The clue lay in the fact that Mr Fletton is head of Rutland / Tresham College in Oakham.

BUT – Waitrose have said that if planning permission is given to Sainsbury’s then they will not be interested in pursuing their proposed development on the old Rutland College site. So it seems - no Waitrose, no money for a new College. Ergo Sainsbury’s planning application had to be defeated.

However those are not legal or sufficient grounds for denying planning permission to Sainsbury’s. So instead we were subjected to arguments, from the planning officers of RCC about:

1. Loss of employment land. (Three hundred jobs are to be created)

2. The site is more suitable for B1 Office Development. (This site has been available for B1 Office use since 2001 and remains unused. Why? Because no one wants to build offices in the middle of nowhere if staff can’t even get a sandwich during their lunch break and have to negotiate an increasingly busy level crossing to get into the centre of town during a half hour lunch break – an impossibility.)

3. The employment of a foodstore is not as significant as would be created by the uses specified in the Local Plan. [B1 - Office use] (This is pie in the sky. This land has been available since 2001 and no offices have been built on the site. Undeveloped office land creates a 0% increase in employment. In fact the proposed store just uses up 8% of the whole area set aside for B1 Office Development. It would seem with the closure of Cottesmore and HMP Ashwell we are about to hit an economic slump of monstrous proportions. No company has been induced to build any offices on this site for over ten years. The logic of the officers’ arguments appears to be: ‘We want office jobs in the area, but since we can’t get offices into the area we won’t let anyone create retail jobs either.’ The people of Oakham desperately need bread today and the officers appear to be arguing in favour of a fantastical jam tomorrow project in the teeth of economic reality. I would argue that a Sainsbury supermarket is more likely to attract B1 Offices to the site. An employer is not going to believe it an attractive office site if there are no local amenities for staff to purchase emergency office supplies, petrol and sandwiches.)

4. Refusal is consistent with adopted Local Plan Policy and with Government Guidance in Planning Police Statement 4 [PPS4]. (There is some flexibility in that Planning Policy Statement 4 and anyway the PPS4 is ‘Guidance.’ A persuasive argument can me made that allowing a Sainsbury supermarket on the site will attract B1 office use in the longer term.)

5. The need for a foodstore of the scale proposed is marginal. (So let such a store be put on the margins of the town and attract visitors from rural destinations around the by-pass without clogging up the town centre. Conversely with the housing development at Hawkesmeade the site will no longer be so marginal).

6. PPS4 encourages main town centre uses in central locations. (Well why didn’t they say so earlier? Let’s just demolish the Castle and let Sainsbury’s build there. Or perhaps compulsorily purchase the land between Mill Street and the RCC, demolish the Museum and build a Sainsbury’s there. Surely huge great eyesores like Tesco. Waitrose, Sainsbury, Asda, Lidl, etc are better not polluting the aesthetic beauty of our town centres. No – it would seem that the planning officers have identified two alternate sites in the town – one on the Tim Norton site at the railway crossing and another, neither of which would seem to provide enough space in which to shoehorn a supermarket with petrol station. Anyway Land’s End Way is on a bus route and when the Hawkesmead estate opens, with small retail outlets in an edge of town development, the proposed Sainsbury site will no longer be so much ‘out of town’ as ‘edge of town.’ Quite the best place for an eyesore. Furthermore Waitrose proposes to build at the other end of Land’s End Way, not much nearer to the town centre, and you can bet your bottom dollar that planning permission will be recommended by the officers. I wonder why?)

7. A Sequential Assessment is required with any main town centre use proposed for a non-central location – i.e. are there more central sites that would be appropriate? (Already covered in 6 above – this argument was considered by the officers to be their clincher in turning down this planning application and much was made of it. It is merely a red herring, who wants to destroy our town centre with an eyesore? The architectural value of supermarkets is worse than a ‘carbuncle on the face of a very old friend.’ Supermarket architecture has all the charm of a Soviet bunker – except that Soviet bunkers are hidden below ground.

8. Refusal is in accordance with government guidance. (BUNKUM – it’s in accordance with the fact that Waitrose will get permission to build on the same road for some very short term financial considerations regarding a Further Education College’s relocation to Barleythorpe.)

The fact that Cllr Terry King, who pretends to sit on the fence, could be seen jubilating with Helen Briggs, the Chief Executive, after the meeting gave us a clue as to the real reasons behind this refusal. It’s time we asked the full Council to consider this planning application and only YOU the public can do that by popular demand. Write individually to each and every Councillor to demand that this application goes to the full Council. With luck that will happen after May and, with a following wind, all the Tory councillors, whipped in to vote against Sainsbury’s planning application, will have lost their seats. Only your letters and your votes can make a change in Rutland.

The meeting on 22 February was a disingenuous fiasco. The Rutland barn is full of foul smelling excrement. Let’s stop calling a spade ‘an excavating implement’ and let’s shovel this lot of ne’er do wells out of office, together with their jobsworth planning officers.


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