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Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Chamber backs judicial review of Sainsbury's plan

Llangollen Chamber of Trade and Tourism has given its backing to a bid for a judicial review of how Denbighshire County Council handled planning applications for a Sainsbury’s supermarket in the town.

However, at their meeting on Monday evening, chamber members expressed their reservations about how much the legal process might cost.
They also discussed the possibility of taking their own “straw poll” of local traders to see how they feel about developers having “gone back on their word” about now incorporating a café in the new supermarket.
And they are considering inviting a senior manager from Sainsbury’s to a future chamber meeting to outline the company’s position.
Seeking a judicial review of the planning process used to determine the store application is the idea of community group Keep Llangollen Special (KLS).
KLS says it hopes to ask a judge to look at whether there is a case to put before the High Court examining the way permission was granted last year for the 20,000 square foot store on land off the A5 currently occupied by the Dobson & Crowther printworks.
The chamber originally supported the store scheme on the basis it would not include a café, delicatessen or butchers to protect local businesses offering the same services.
Then, after the original permission was granted last October, the condition banning a café was removed.
This prompted the chamber to claim in a statement issued a few weeks ago that this move had left its members feeling “cheated” by the process.
KLS has now sent out a formal invitation for the chamber to support the judicial review and this was considered by chamber members at their Hand Hotel meeting on Monday.
Chamber chair John Palmer claimed the café would be a threat to those in Llangollen town centre.
He said: “It will be about two-thirds of the size of the one at Sainsbury’s in Wrexham, so it’s going to be quite big. It’s also going to be providing food.
“We are very disappointed about Sainsbury’s going back on their word that no café would be included.”  
A suggestion that a top Sainsbury’s official be invited along to a chamber meeting to explain his company’s position was believed to be worthy of consideration.
While some members expressed their support for a judicial review, a number queried the cost of mounting such a legal challenge.
Phil Thane, a town councillor and KLS member who sits in on chamber meetings as an observer, agreed it could be costly, adding: “If KLS don’t get support from traders in the town and they don’t put their money where their mouth is, we’ll have to give up the idea.”
The chamber voted the support the judicial review in principle but with reservations about its cost.
Also supported was a suggestion from a member that the chamber carries out a straw poll of town traders to see how they now feel about the whole supermarket question.    
Meanwhile, KLS is also seeking support for its judicial review call from Clwyd South Assembly Member Ken Skates.

Group chair Mike Edwards said:  “We have investigated and taken legal advice from Planning Aid Wales.
“Step one can be taken at nominal cost, but we do have support from a significant retailer in town together with the backing of various affected independent traders in Llangollen.”
Denbighshire County Council said in a recent statement on the issue: “All of the planning applications relating to the food store development in Llangollen have followed a due process of consultation, assessment and determination by the elected members of the planning committee.”

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