Peter Hough

Peter Hough
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Saturday, 12 March 2011

Sainsbury's won't appeal - but aren't offering any alternatives either

Sainsbury's representatives have been in touch with me to announce they will not be appealing the decision of Sefton's planning committee last September to throw out their proposed £50 million investment in Crosby Village. It is likely they would have won an appeal - landing Crosby's council tax payers a bill of as much as £180,000. The fact they haven't speaks volumes.

Sadly they are not offering any alternatives either.

On paper they still have the choice of walking away altogether, or offering something new. They are even considering selling off their land in the village, bringing down the final curtain. I was told that there was no time-table for a final decision, and I got the strong impression Crosby has been shoved onto the back-burner, that they now have other fish to fry. Since their offer was turned down, they have been looking at several hundred other sites in the North West, with a view to spending their cash elsewhere.

Never say never, but this is devastating news for our town centre. I said at the time when I and my colleagues supported the investment, that I didn't want to gamble away Crosby's future. The Formby Tory and Bootle Labour councillors who voted together to kick the investment out may have done just that.

Good riddance, some people will say - those who didn't like the modern look of the new store, and wanted something smaller - but the town desperately needed this investment, and the company was offering new retail units for small businesses, and an attractive shopping environment. At this time of cuts, it would have been Crosby's silver lining.
It gives me no pleasure at all to say that I think we read the situation better than those councillors who rejected the plans. There never was a plan 'B', and Sainsbury's made it abundantly clear that they wouldn't get back their investment with a smaller store. Senior planning officers were strongly recommending that council members accept the proposal.

There had been 18 months of public consultation and compromise on both sides. For instance, the company removed the filling station from their plans and replaced it with a building for community use, after listening to residents and local councillors.

The Planning Committee

We should have grabbed that opportunity and embraced this once in a generation offer - it was the only game in town. There are, and never were, any other investors waiting to step in.

I feel sorry for those traders who stuck out their necks to support the plan, despite the pressure from protesters.

The councillors who voted against it need to examine their consciences.

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