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Store wars hot up as council admit gaffe

PUBLISHED: 20:56 28 June 2002 | UPDATED: 12:10 03 March 2010

THE battle between rival stores to claim a slice of shopping action in Stowmarket has left a council underfire for jeopardising a major town centre development, years of work and £900,000 worth of Government funding.

THE battle between rival stores to claim a slice of shopping action in Stowmarket has left a council underfire for jeopardising a major town centre development, years of work and £900,000 worth of Government funding.

Mid-Suffolk District Council yesterday had its decision to grant planning permission to redevelop a former service station site in to a food store in Bury Road, Stowmarket overturned after a judicial review.

The council has been working with Corby-based Boden Properties to redevelop Stowmarket's former Waterworks building into a food store as well, but then gave permission for competitors in Bury Road.

Managing director of Boden Properties Dan Bould said that decision was in breach of Government guidelines on out-of-town centre developments.

Allowing a rival foodstore would mean the Waterworks project would not be able to go ahead because of too much competition in a small market town, he said.

His company took Mid Suffolk's decision to a judicial review and the Bury Street approval was overturned because the authority failed to take account of a competing planning application.

Mr Bould said: "We are in partnership with Mid Suffolk District Council on the Waterworks site and we were selected a number of years ago to deliver that scheme.

"The local authority has had around £900,000 worth of Government money put in. So far the West Suffolk College are on the site, but it's in the Local Plan as a retail site too for the second phase.

"If the Bury Road site was upheld it would be the end of the Waterworks scheme, all that Government money and all that hard work wasted.''

Bury Road site applicants Epping based Petrol Hypermarkets wanted the site to be occupied by Lidl UK GmbH's and used as a food store. The council will now have to reconsider the application.

John Sexton, a director with the Epping firm, said: "We have been treated very fairly by councillors and they have given us a hearing.

"But I am amazed at the conduct of the council, and it's certainly unheard of for a council not to defend its own decision. I'm amazed at their conduct.''

Ian Rickard, head of corporate services at the council, said: "We did not handle the petrol hypermarket one correctly, that's what the judicial review means.

"We do not agree with Boden's position, but the decision on the petrol hypermarkets site has been overturned and we have to accept that.''

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