Residents objecting to the new Sainsbury’s development have expressed their frustration after local councillors failed to take part in an open forum with Sainsbury’s planners.
The meeting at the Old Town Hall on July 5 was organised by Newtown Residents Association as part of their AGM. Usually a couple of Eastleigh councillors are on hand to listen to residents and answers questions however about 30 residents along with members of Eastleigh’s Safer Neighbourhoods team, the local area co-ordinator and representatives of Sainsbury’s heard chair Cecile Snell explain that no councillors were available due to ‘an emergency council meeting’.
The following day Eastleigh News was told by an Eastleigh Borough Council spokesman that there had been no emergency council meeting. Councillor Chris Thomas – chair of Eastleigh Local Area Committee – described the lack of available councillors as ‘unfortunate’ and told Eastleigh News that the meeting had been a private meeting of councillors with no agenda or minutes and that he was unable to say what the meeting had been about.
Despite the lack of elected members (who will be shortly voting on the planning application) the meeting was nevertheless lively. A short presentation by the Sainsbury’s team into the background for the application and a review of the claimed potential benefits for the town was followed by a question and answer session with residents who were anxious to discuss their concerns.
The Sainsbury’s team explained that recent retail studies commissioned by the council had suggested that the best way to halt the decline in shoppers visiting the town centre would be to develop a strong anchor store and that the Leigh Rd recreation ground was the only space left in the town centre on which to build.
Sainsbury’s said their plan would increase footfall in the town centre, benefitting traders creating more jobs and funding improvements to public open spaces and improving provision for public transport. However although several residents said welcomed improvements to the town centre they expressed strong concerns regarding:
- Potential alcohol related ABS as a result of extended trading hours
- Loss of the recreation ground park land and trees
- Loss of street level public car parking
- Appearance and longevity of the proposed building
- Threat to the viability of the existing businesses in the Town centre.
- Increased Traffic congestion and pollution.
One resident described the recently completed Sainsbury’s superstore in Portswood as looking like “a mine shed” or a temporary structure but the representatives said the store was being built to last and was of a different design to the Portswood store.
Sainsbury’s claim that they will increase footfall in the town was queried by a local who claimed the supermarket giant had been leafleting residents with a £10 off voucher encouraging shoppers to stay at home and shop online.
In response Sainsbury’s team said that home deliveries were only a small part of its business.
Another resident demanded to know how would the park be improved by a reduction in size? How could a reduction be described as improvement?,
Sainsbury’s said that they would give a substantial sum to the council to spend on park improvements but whether this money would be ring fenced and what specific use it would be put to was unclear and would be a matter for the council to decide.
Under pressure from the audience the Sainsbury’s team conceded that:
- Over 5,000 square feet of the recreation ground will be built on
- 47 trees will be lost from the Rec – but will only be replaced by 13
- They intend to run night time deliveries by HGVs
- They intend to extend current opening hours beyond 8pm
The head of the Sainsbury’s team insisted that, despite the clear opposition of the audience, 90% of Eastleigh’s residents are happy with the proposals – a statement which was met with disbelief – and that Sainsbury’s had no intention of changing or downsizing their plans.
Concerns like opening hours and night time deliveries were subject to negotiations with the council they said – although they saw no reason why any restrictions or conditions should placed on them.
After the meeting a Newtown mum of two said:
“The fact that no elected official was there to listen at such an important stage in this planning process sends a very poor message. It is no surprise that people disengage from the democratic process.”
“I feel I am entitled to know what important business kept elected councillors from hearing from the people they represent”
Another Newtown resident said:
“When I first received the leaflet that Sainsbury’s sent round I was all in favour. It was only later I realised that they wanted to take so much of the recreation ground. It’s awful’
Are you concerned about the Sainsbury’s development proposals?
You can view the application and comment online here
or you can lobby the Local Area Committee Councillors below who will be voting on Sainsbury’s proposals in September.
They will be very keen to share their views!
Cllr Simon Bancroft (Lib Dem) 80650530 firstname.lastname@example.org
Cllr Wayne Irish (Lib Dem) 80328560 email@example.com
Cllr Keith Trenchard(Lib Dem) 07523272153 firstname.lastname@example.org
Cllr Maureen Sollitt (Lib Dem) 80344394 email@example.com
Cllr Chris Thomas (Lib Dem) 80907612 firstname.lastname@example.org
Cllr Peter Wall (Lib Dem) 80261920 email@example.com
Cllr Paul Bicknell (Lib Dem) 07999739882 firstname.lastname@example.org
Cllr Darshaan Man (Lib Dem) N.B Cllr Man does not appear to own a telephone. email@example.com
Cllr Steve Sollitt (Lib Dem) 80653790 firstname.lastname@example.org
and don’t miss Councillor votes against own motion which has the classic “I have a bit of an amendment” quote from Cllr House!