Sustainable Ottery expresses horror at approval of 20,000 sq ft store

Sustainable Ottery is flabbergasted that EDDC’s Development Management Committee voted in favour of a full 20,000 sq ft Sainsbury store in Ottery at its meeting on 15 April. This decision went against the combined wisdom of EDDC’s own planning officers, the retail specialists GVA Grimley, and English Heritage who all recommended a smaller store. It was also contrary to the wishes of Ottery’s Town Council and of East Devon District Councillors for Ottery and West Hill, Roger Giles and David Cox. Even more galling was the fact that the decision was carried by only two votes, with seven in favour of a 20,000 sq ft store and five favouring a smaller store.

By Sainsbury’s own calculations, a 20,000 sq ft store will generate 20,000 car journeys a week, causing traffic chaos and gridlock in Ottery’s narrow streets, increasing pollution in the town centre and severely compromising the health and safety of pedestrians and schoolchildren.

The effect on local shops selling food and comparison goods will be devastating. GVA Grimley’s report of February 2010 (commissioned by EDDC at taxpayers’ expense) recommended that the store should be half the size proposed by Sainsbury – i.e. 10,000 sq ft. It pointed out that a 20,000 sq ft store would be seriously disproportionate to the rest of the retail space in Ottery. By comparison, it pointed out that the Tesco store in Honiton represents 25% of retail space in Honiton, the Waitrose store 20% of retail space in Sidmouth but that a 20,000 sq ft store in Ottery would represent a staggering 70% of retail space in the town.

The GVA Grimley report warned that a store of this size would result in a 20% drop in business for local retailers. SO’s own survey of local shops’ income in the summer of 2009 indicates that a such a drop would force around 9 existing shops in the town to close.

Sustainable Ottery will be seeking answers from EDDC as to how much money was spent on commissioning GVA Grimley to conduct its detailed assessment of the supermarket applications before a small group of far less knowledgeable district councillors decided to ignore its conclusions. We will also call on the councillors concerned to justify a decision which flies in the face of every report they were presented with and the views of those elected to represent the people of Ottery.

We will be urging SO supporters to e-mail English Heritage and the Government of the South West in the hope that both bodies can intervene, using their powers and responsibilities in relation to heritage sites. (SO suggests people e-mail David Stuart of English Heritage, david.stuart@english-heritage.org.uk, quoting the EDDC planning application number 09/2354 and the EH reference number P00081464).

We trust that the two district councillors for Ottery and West Hill and Ottery’s Town Council will raise their strongest objections to the Development Management Committee’s decision. Constructive suggestions by Ottery’s Town Council that a smaller store would enable the walkway on Hind St to run inside the listed wall and two-way traffic to come and go from the store along Hind St appeared to fall on deaf ears at the meeting on 15 April.

`It is not right that just seven district councillors can simply ignore the advice of those far more knowledgeable on Ottery’s needs than themselves and that two votes can seal Ottery’s fate for decades to come,’ said Helen Collinson of Sustainable Ottery. `And it is downright unjust that in planning law, those opposed to a 20,000 sq ft store now have no redress and no means of appealing against the decision.’

Former Ottery town councillor, Robert Baker commented: `As an ex-councillor, I am astounded that such an important decision could be made after such a dismally inadequate standard of debate from the committee. The councilors involved should hang their heads in shame for ignoring the vast weight of properly-researched evidence from professionals, local councillors and EDDC’s own experts.’

`One of the classic comments made by one of the councilors on the Committee was that Ottery ‘deserves’ a supermarket,’ commented Sustainable Ottery member Jill Dixon. `No, what Ottery deserves is a proper and fair consideration of all the facts and of the recommendations presented by planning experts employed and commissioned at taxpayers’ expense.’

`It has been said that Ottery is a “dying town”, ‘ said Clive Essame of Sustainable Ottery, `and while I do not agree with this, I do not see that imposing a giant supermarket on the town can do anything but harm the economic and community life of the town. Why is it that whenever regeneration of an area is on the agenda in East Devon the solution is seen to be to allow a supermarket to be built? ‘

`80p in every £1 spent in a big supermarket is lost to the local economy, while in locally owned shops 80p in every £1 spent stays within the local economy to be spent again. Our elected councillors have acted against the interests of the town in the name of regeneration. I fear we will all live to regret their decision,’ said Mr Essame.

To find out what Sustainable Ottery members said at the meeting, please see the website –www.sustainableottery.org.uk or click on http://www.sustainableottery.org.uk/#/sainsburys-horror-apr-2010/4540421897

If you wish to add your comments upon this decision then you might like to write to the papers

emma.silverthorne@archant.co.uk for the Ottery Herald) or  below are a list of contacts to whom you might like to direct them.

EDDC Development Committee members-

PDiviani@eastdevon.gov.uk (Chairman), ADinnis@eastdevon.gov.uk,RFranklin@eastdevon.gov.uk , IChubb@eastdevon.gov.uk , BBuxton@eastdevon.gov.uk ,DAtkins@eastdevon.gov.uk , MWilliamson@eastdevon.gov.uk

You may also like to contact Mr David Stuart at English Heritage  David.Stuart@english-heritage.org.uk and your two district councillors roger.giles@devon.gov.uk anddcox@eastdevon.gov.uk.

The planning details are –   EDDC planning application number 09/2354 and the English Heritage reference number P00081464.

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