SHIPSTON-on-Stour is unlikely to get its supermarket, after planning officers told decision-makers on Tuesday to refuse planning permission.
After months of heated lobbying from hundreds of both pro and anti-supermarket supporters, the committee making the crucial decision at Shipston High School next Thursday have been told a supermarket ‘would have a significant adverse impact on Shipston town centre’.
The supermarket row - which has gripped the town for almost a year - has turned messy in recent weeks, with both sides making accusations of deception.
Pro-supermarket campaigners were furious that a petition handed into the decision-makers, Stratford District Council, back in October, had not appeared on their planning website.
This outrage came after an “independent” report prepared for the planning case officer was slammed by the pro-supermarket Labour councillor for Shipston, Jeff Kenner, for only taking into account the views of those objecting to the supermarket.
On the other side of the argument, as reported left/right(??), the anti-supermarket campaigners have, along with the Herald, uncovered people using fake names to voice pretend support for the development.
And at a heated meeting on Monday, former-Mayor of Shipston, Paul Rathkey, accused Cllr Kenner of ‘being in the developer’s pockets’.
He retracted that statement and wrote to Cllr Kenner the next day to apologise.
Speaking to the Herald Cllr Rathkey said: “The phrase I wrote down and meant to use was being ‘in bed’ with the developers, metaphorically speaking obviously. I did not mean to imply that he was financially in the pocket of Ainscough.”
But Cllr Kenner was furious with the former Mayor’s comments, calling them a “personal attack”.
Kenner said: “He made a highly offensive and provocative speech. I think he should be disqualified from representing the town council at the planning committee and should consider his position.”
The Labour councillor - who many believe only got elected because of his fervent pro-supermarket stance - told the Herald even if the supermarket was refused, Ainscough were not going away.
If they are indeed refused permission, and subsequently appeal, the decision could go to Secretary of State, Eric Pickles.
Cllr Rathkey described Tesco, Mr Pickles, and Jeff Kenner, as an “unholy trinity”.
Ainscough Strategic Land’s proposed development on greenfield land on the edge of town - which includes a supermarket, a petrol station, 54 homes and 130 retirement properties - has polarised opinion in Shipston for months.
A Stratford district planning committee is meeting next Thursday (24th January) to decide whether to grant Ainscough Strategic Land outline planning permission.
On Tuesday, a huge 68-page report that the committee base their decision on was published.
It said “that the economic benefits resulting from job creation from the development would not over-ride the harm that would result to Shipston town centre,” and recommended the committee refuse Ainscough’s proposal.
On Monday, Shipston’s town council met to vote on the issue after a recent surge of new members meant their objection to the supermarket, made some months ago, was now out of date.
But if it was hoped this would provide some insight into the town’s opinion, none came. Six members voted in favour of the supermarket, six against.
Both campaigns admit the town is divided on the supermarket, but both made bold claims this week for a slight majority in their favour.
Trev Trevethick from the anti-supermarket Shipston Heart Alive Campaign (SHAC), pointed to the 1,378 letters and petition signatures against the development sent to the district council, compared to the 998 for.
Whereas Cllr Kenner, and the Shipston Needs a Supermarket Campaign (SNAS), say 59% of submissions are actually in favour of the development.
At Monday’s meeting, the Mayor of Shipston, Faye Ivens, chose not to vote because of her apparent vested interest in the issue.
It was left up to the Deputy Mayor, Veronica Murphy, to give the casting vote. Having voted against the application, she chose to ‘stick with the status quo’ and the town council’s previous objection to the plans.
Stratford District Council's planning committee (east) will meet on Thursday January 24th at 6pm in Shipston High School to consider the planning application. A large number of residents are expected to show up.
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