Thursday, 17 November 2011

Sainsbury's QC: critics "don't like large supermarkets"

RESIDENTS are opposing a Sainsbury’s plan for Dorridge because of a “simple dislike of larger supermarkets”, legal advice published by the firm says.

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Planning barrister Martin Kingston QC said the scheme for Forest Court met national planning rules and should be approved by councillors.

The barrister, from Birmingham’s No5 Chambers, was commissioned by Sainsbury’s to assess the plan for a supermarket and seven retail units.

This was in response to a report commissioned by the Dorridge Residents Opposed to Village Superstore campaign group, also from a No5 Chambers barrister, which opposed the plan.

Mr Kingston said: “Objections appear to be more rooted in a simple dislike of larger supermarkets than anything which is specifically attributable to this proposal in Dorridge.

“Whilst one must respect the views of those who dislike major food stores and the philosophy which underlies them it is nonetheless the fact that major food stores provide the means by which the vast majority of the population achieve their household needs in a convenient, affordable, accessible and sustainable fashion.”

Solihull Metropolitan Borough Council today told The Sihillian it is aiming for the scheme put to its planning committee for a decision on Wednesday November 30.

Mr Kingston said residents have to travel outside the village for their main food shop and a Sanisbury’s survey found 70 per cent want to do their main shop in Dorridge.

The same survey found the highest number of responses, 42 per cent, backed a store the size of Knowle Tesco, more than a third the size of the proposed Sainsbury’s.

Mr Kingston said: “This proposal is for a supermarket in an existing centre which is manifestly failing.”

Emphasis should be put on planning policies set by the Government and not local policies, which the DROVS reports argue reject the scheme, he said.

Mr Kingston pointed to controversial Government reforms that mean “the default answer to any development and growth proposals should be ‘yes’ unless it would compromise the key sustainable development principles set out in national planning policy”.

Councils should take a “clear and positive attitude to development proposals that would assist economic growth rather than being obstructive and putting impediments in the way of proposals” he said.

The DROVS report said the plan goes against national planning guidance PPS4, which says plans must be “consistent” with surroundings and an “appropriate scale”.

But Mr Kingston said the policy takes an “entirely positive view of proposals for retail development in centres”.

He said: “There is little, if anything, to support the view that there would be any adverse impact arising from the proposal.”

The DROVS report said a supermarket for the village was not in the council’s 2006 unitary development plan UDP, which guides what can be built in the borough.

Yet Mr Kingston said the plan “predates all current national policy” and “is clearly not based on an up to date consideration of either the need for retail development”.

The council’s core strategy, set to replace the UDP, does not fit Government policy he added, and has no “significant weight”.

Responding to a separate DROVS report which raised concerns that cars will be forced to park on streets, Mr Kingston said this could be managed by parking controls.

These would need to be approved by the council.

He said: “Comparisons of the size of the store proposed with the size of individual stores proposed in larger centres appears to me to entirely miss the point that the larger centres, for example, Solihull town centre, have not a single major supermarket to meet their needs but a range of major stores to meet their needs as well as out of centre stores.

“What is proposed in Dorridge is in effect the main foodstore for the centre.”

And he said the 2,900sqm shop floorspace is already bigger than the 1,812sqm proposed by Sainsbury’s and therefore, in theory, the scheme does not need planning permission.

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