In the past year my biggest local matter to deal with has been a planning application in the ward I represent for a neighbourhood centre. Nothing wrong with that , you might think. There were even conditions on the outline planning consent for 'a range of uses valuable to the local community' and that the traffic numbers would not be 'demonstrably detrimental to the convenience or safety of highways users'
But the application that came in last year was from Asda - for a supermarket, plus some smaller shops, flats and a only a couple of units that could be for community uses.
It was a big local issue. Officers recommended approval, but the two Lib Dem ward members (Ron Oatham and myself) moved refusal and won by a fairly narrow margin. Asda have gone to an appeal on their first application and submitted a second one to the council. This keeps the store at the same size, but gets rid of the flats and replaces them with more units for community use.
Local opinion is split roughly 70-30 against Asda (although in terms of letters to the council it's more like 40- 1). The local chambers of trade, and our local Tory MP , Mark Francois, have been very much against. Local residents were mostly concerned about traffic and the effect of a 23-million-pound-turnover edge-of-town store on our existing shopping centres.
To cut a long story short, we moved refusal on the second application last Thursday and won 26-6. Ron got a round of applause and I got so many pats on the back that I can still feel the dents in my shoulder.
Will Asda continue with their appeal, or will they go for something smaller and more acceptable? We will see.
But if anyone out there has experience of seeing those nice chaps from Asda at a planning inquiry, I'd be glad to hear from you.