Wednesday, 16 June 2010

Supermarket Wars – the Planning Decision

Several interesting byplays at the special County Council Planning Committee on Monday considering the three supermarket applications: John Taylor is a very good Chair, and Peter Rutherford, the planning officer kept the meeting calm with his slow, deliberate presentations. The councillors themselves seemed to be too aware of likely appeals to go into any detailed discussion, so it went entirely by officer recommendations. The applicants were all preparing the ground for appeals too – and an interesting difference in approach between those who addressed the committee and those who addressed the public. Good presentations from objectors too – with Ken Stait and Marcus Hopper both particularly effective IMO.

OK – enough of the Robert Pollard-style punditry, what happens next?

Well – they went with the least worst option – working on the assumption that one supermarket application had to be approved – with evident sacrifice of the views of the Staithes Lane residents for the perceived greater benefit for Morpeth. And there was an implicit heavy dependency on getting another go when the full application comes in.

I guess we can expect appeals against refusal from both Sainsbury and Tesco’s – and the political cynicism is that they will be persuaded to drop their appeals for deals to become the operator for the Dark Lane site and/or to move into the former M&S Food Only store on the Market Place. I’d also say that there’ll be a bit of a race to bring this forward before the public sector recession hits – and it’ll hit Morpeth bad in the next 18-24 months.

So – I’d imagine Mark Dransfield is quite keen to crack on with his development.

Meanwhile – I still do not recognise that even an edge of town supermarket is needed or will not damage town centre trade.

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