Councillors put spanner in the works of Sainsbury’s plans to build superstore in Saffron Walden

SAINSBURY’S bid to build a superstore in Saffron Walden has been dealt a blow after councillors refused to back the application.

The supermarket giant’s revised plan for a store on Thaxted Road, 20 per cent smaller than the original proposal – which was refused in December – was brought before Uttlesford District Council’s planning committee on Wednesday but could not be determined as it is going to a public inquiry.

In a tight vote, councillors – who approved a separate Sainsbury’s application for a petrol station on the Thaxted Road site – agreed with recommendations to refuse the revised plans.

That came after officers had stated that the application had not addressed the original concerns, particularly its detrimental impact on the town centre.

Councillors were split on the impact Sainsbury’s would have on the town centre before voting 6-4 in opposition to the plans.

Speaking after the meeting Paul Gadd, spokesman for Save Walden Town Centre, the action group set up to oppose the development, said that the council’s stance should act as suitable guidance in the public inquiry.

He said: “It bolsters what the council and their advisors Savills have been saying, that Sainsbury’s development will undoubtedly have a major effect on Waitrose and therefore take a huge number of people out of Saffron Walden.”

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Cllr Elizabeth Godwin said: “There is a huge variety of small shops in Saffron Walden – that is something people all over this country would value and cherish.

“It is full of small people doing small enterprises, and it is working. I would hate to see that balance disturbed or challenged in any way.”

Cllr Keith Eden said that Sainsbury’s had come to the town “10 years too soon”.

“We have recently granted extensions to Waitrose and Tesco, allowing the capacity the town needs to grow by a number of years.

“Sainsbury’s need a stake in the ground but I would send them the message to keep their capital somewhere safe and re-appear in 10 years time. Clearly we will be more amenable because that capacity would have been used up.”

However, Cllr Bob Eastham said: “Waitrose came and everybody said it would be the demise of the town. It wasn’t - it improved and got stronger. Tesco then arrived and everyone said the same thing – it didn’t happen.

“Sainsbury’s will bring competition which is a good thing, a petrol station would be even better. I think this would be a good thing for the town.”

Sainsbury’s development surveyor, Michael Morris, said: “We’re obviously disappointed with the result which was very close again.

“We’ve given it every chance to be decided locally and it’s a shame that it hasn’t been. The petrol station won’t go ahead without the store.”

The council’s views will now form a case for the Planning Inspectorate, alongside the original application, in February.