Wednesday, 30 November 2011

Dorridge Sainsbury's approved

COUNCILLORS tonight approved a Sainsbury’s plan for Forest Court in Dorridge.

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Click the headline or link below to read the rest of this story.

Above: Arthur Hall, of Winchester Avenue, Annette Jarratt-Knock and husband David, of Besbury Close, arrived with "Say Yes to Sainsbury's" badges.

The nine members of Solihull Metropolitan Borough Council’s planning committee unanimously voted for the plan.

The Silhillian has tweeted the debate from tonight's meeting, which lasted two-and-a-half-hours. Click here to read tweets (most recent tweets are first).

The members voted after an impassioned plea from members of the public who support and oppose the scheme. The firm hopes to open the store in 2013.

A larger plan was rejected by the committee in March last year over traffic and parking fears.

A campaign group that fought the store said it would now consider legal action.

Residents, Sainsbury's and doctors speak for and against.

John Wilson said the plan “completely contradicts” the council’s own planning policies which he said backs a smaller supermarket in Knowle.

He said: “Dorridge needs something it can be comfortable with and proud of in the long term, not something we build in haste and regret after.”

Nick Cromie, speaking for the Dorridge Residents Opposed to Village Superstore group, likened the plan to a “retail park”.

Raising safety fears over traffic’s impact on pupils walking to school, he said: “The proposed development is still not of a scale appropriate for Dorridge centre.”

He said: “Work with us for a store smaller than those proposed and you will win the support of all the community and the best outcome for Dorridge.”

Residents give their views on the decision:

Vox pop on approval for Dorridge Sainsbury"s (mp3)

Michael Adenmosun, Sainsbury's regional development executive and Ian Shearman, acting chairman of the Dorridge Residents Opposed to Village Superstore (DROVS) group give their reaction:

Sainsbury"s Dorridge interviews (mp3)

But Gary Forster, for Sainsbury’s, said there is “considerable support” for the plan, which is the “right size”.

He said: “This is the opportunity to develop a new heart for Dorridge. A smaller store has failed and would fail again.”

Dr John Davenport, for The Dorridge Practice, said: “We have had much support for the development from residents and patients.”

This included a signature of 2,000 names, he said, adding: “We believe this is an exciting opportunity for Dorridge.”

David Billingham applauded Sainsbury’s’ consultation with the public and said the plan would pump vital cash into the village.

He said: “I would ask you to begin the process of regenerating Dorridge tonight.”

Patricia Eveson said: “We should grasp Sainsbury’s’ offer of a new supermarket with open arms.

“We need this injection of new life into our village so we have a pleasant, thriving village once again.”

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Above: Dr Mary Mongomery, of Grove Road, opposed the scheme.

Councillors speak of divisions.

Ward councillors, who did not have a vote on the committee, then spoke.

Dorridge & Hockley Heath ward councillors, who did not have a vote on the committee, then spoke.

Andy Mackiewicz said 99 per cent of residents want a Sainsbury’s but disagreed on the size.

Ken Meeson said there was a “tremendous split within our community” over the plan, with views “split down the middle, 50/50”.

The village had been hit by residents leaving to shop at out of town stores, he said, and there is a “strong desire” for a store.

He said: “I hope, whatever happens here this evening, we heal the rifts that there are within our community.

“I’m rather said that this issue has divided us so much and I hope we will find a way of coming together.”

Ian Courts said a poll he conducted found 52 per cent against and 42 per cent in favour of the plan. “Talk about divisive,” he said.

The committee debate begins.

Committee members then gave their views.

Jim Ryan said he was concerned about how surgery patients, particularly the elderly, would access the 175 proposed parking spaces, for shoppers and patients.

He said: “I’m afraid for me, I have to be totally honest, but this development doesn’t do it.”

It did not give assurances over the previous reasons for refusal, he said.

“I believe a lot more work needs to take place on this application before the community of Dorridge can come together and say ‘we have something we can all celebrate and we can all enjoy and is in the best interests of Dorridge’.

Referring to Sainsbury’s statement that the plan would create 200 jobs, he said: “You don’t have to destroy the centre of a village just for jobs.”

He moved deferring the plan for it to be re-thought, warning it would lead to “resentment” among the community, but was voted down.

Claire O’Kane said the reduction of the sales area of the Sainsbury’s by 26 per cent compared to the last plan was to be welcomed.

She said: “I believe it is appropriate and will have a positive impact [on the] vitality and viability of the future of Dorridge.”

Glenis Slater said Sainsbury’s and the council have worked “very very hard” to overcome objections from the previous plan.

A smaller store would be “like another convenience store” similar to Tesco opposite.

Adding that “Dorridge is not the village it was” she said: “Places grow, things change. We can’t all sit back in a time warp, we have got to grow.”

Welcoming jobs, she said: “I can see absolutely no reason, no planning reason to refuse this application.”

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Above: Sainsbury's said it produced the above badges on request from residents. A store
supporter handed them out at the meeting.

But John Windmill said he showed a client the site 25 years ago when working as a solicitor and was told it “wasn’t a going concern”.

He warned Sainsbury’s could “turn round and say ‘no thank-you, there is no financial return for us, we are off’.”

Moving deferral he also said other supermarkets had been given permission with conditions such as opening hours and store size and then applied to remove them.

Alan Martin said: “It is going to change the character of Dorridge, let’s have no doubt about that at all.

“But then all most big developments do change the character of the area.”

Pointing to opposition to Safeway, now Morrisons, on the Warwick Road in Solihull, he said: “There was a very strong opposition within the borough.

“You now don’t hear any complaints about it at all.”

Robert Hulland said he was struck by the number of shoppers in the village when committee members visited on Saturday.

He said: “There was hardly any people in what should be a vibrant village shopping centre. That worried me quite a bit.”

Cllr Hulland said he was impressed that Sainsbury’s had been “going out and speaking to people” since the last plan was refused.

He said of the plan: “It gives the village a character, it seemed to look the part and reflect the nature of Dorridge.”

Mr Hulland said: “I personally feel the size of the store is right. I don’t think we can push it anymore without Sainsbury’s saying goodbye and Dorridge going into further decline.”

He added: “I don’t think we want to send a message to Sainsbury’s about this particular application.”

Jeffrey Potts said rejection would mean “you are stuck with a body that needs resuscitating and is in danger of expiring”.

He said: “Dorridge needs another chance and, at the moment, if we refuse this, what will the consequence of that be?”

Cllr Potts said: “What are the residents going to be left with? A grot spot.”

Councillors Ryan and Windmill said they would back approval subject to a travel plan being agreed with Sainsbury’s.

The application was then agreed subject to conditions including a traffic management plan.

Acting DROVS chairman Ian Shearman said: “We will consider legal possibilities but they are usually very expensive for a small group like ours and also rather narrow in their scope.

“It is a big disappointment.”

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