Sainsbury's superstore moves step closer for Saffron Walden

PUBLISHED: 10:44 29 October 2009 | UPDATED: 22:02 31 May 2010

A LAND-SWAP deal involving a supermarket giant and a museum s new resource centre has been given the green light by councillors. The decision means that a new Sainsbury s store could be built on land originally earmarked for Saffron Walden Museum s Herita

A LAND-SWAP deal involving a supermarket giant and a museum's new resource centre has been given the green light by councillors.

The decision means that a new Sainsbury's store could be built on land originally earmarked for Saffron Walden Museum's Heritage Quest Centre (HQC).

Curator of the museum Carolyn Wingfield approved of the swap, describing the alternative site as a "better piece of land in a more prominent location".

"It would also remove a serious access issue in that should the new Sainsbury's be built, the only way into the HQC would be through the supermarket's car park," she said.

The deal, which involves two parcels of land on Thaxted Road, was approved by members of Uttlesford District Council (UDC) at a full meeting last Tuesday.

Voting against the idea, Cllr David Morson said: "This decision is wrong on two scores. Uncertainty and inevitable delay involved in the land swap will put the HQC in jeopardy. Financial grants could be lost.

"We are also concerned that the impartiality of the council may be called into question when it has to deal with a planning application on whether there should be a Sainsbury's store on this site. Applications for out-of-town supermarkets are always controversial."

Chief executive of UDC John Mitchell rejected concerns about the council's impartiality and said that any planning application would be "determined on its own merits in accordance with planning law and procedure".

He added: "I want to be absolutely clear that the decision to proceed further with the land swap negotiations by no means has any bearing on the decision the council will make on any planning application which may be submitted by Sainsbury's."

Development surveyor for Sainsbury's, Michael Morris, said that the supermarket would benefit from the swap because it would give them a better car park layout.

Although Sainsbury's will not provide any finance for the HQC as part of the deal, Mr Morris did confirm that they were "committed to making contributions towards the additional costs associated with the HQC moving from its original site."

The HQC, which will provide purpose-built storage for the museum's collections along with dedicated research and meeting space, has been funded by a £976,500 grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF).

Chairman of the Saffron Walden Museum Society Ltd, Tony Watson, said: "Should the land swap not be possible because of planning decisions or the HLF, then we will press ahead with the current site."

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