I’m sorry to have to report that Hart District Council this evening recommended approval for the Sainsbury’s store application. Because of the size of the site it has to be forwarded to the Secretary of State for final approval but that is probably a formality. However, before that forwarding can take place there are several weeks of wrangling on conditions and community contributions, so things could still become unstuck or other external factors might come into play, so all is not entirely lost. I’ll keep you up to date with any news.
Hart had the option to defer the decision but they decided this could leave them open to a claim for costs from Sainsbury’s, so they prevented themselves from being able to consider the more rational idea of a larger Tesco plus a smaller village centre Waitrose, both of which were mentioned in their deliberations. Who knows if either or both of those other options will ever now happen. In the worst case, Tesco could downgrade or close their current store in the face of the larger Sainsbury’s – what “choice” would that then provide to Hook and what would be left of the village centre?
Thank you so much to everyone who attended tonight – it was a really fantastic turnout and I think we behaved ourselves quite well given some of the uninformed “debate” that was going on some of the time. The very few people bussed in by Sainsbury’s (who were outnumbered by us objectors by at least 10 to 1) kept themselves totally hidden until the decision had been made when there was a smattering of applause that quickly petered out. I am not surprised they were sheepish, since their desire for the store was based on a superficial wish for a “big shop nearer to them”, with no regard for the impact on Hook as a whole.
Thank you very much to Neil for speaking and having to answer questions from the committee without any preparation or notes. Neil did a far superior job to the supposed professional speaking for Sainsbury’s (whose job title at Sainsbury’s is “Town Planner” – I bet you’re glad they now apparently design our towns, even when they are villages…).
There are still even bigger challenges to come in the form of the housing applications. At times this evening mention was made of the “forthcoming developments for NE Hook” as if they are done and dusted, but we need to make it clear it absolutely is not. In fact at times housing numbers of 700 and 750 houses were randomly peppered into the discussion by councillors as if the 550 were not already far too many.
Thanks again for all your support.