Seaton: Tesco wins regeneration battle

TESCO has been given the go ahead by East Devon District Council to build a new supermarket in Seaton, despite public protest against the plan.

TESCO has been given the go ahead by East Devon District Council to build a new supermarket in Seaton, despite public protest against the plan.

All but one councillor recommended the supermarket giant over a rival application by Sainsbury's during the special meeting of the development management committee, held in Seaton Town Hall, yesterday (Tuesday, September 15).

Prior to the meeting, hundreds of residents gathered outside dressed in orange - chanting for Sainsbury's.

A crowd packed into the hall and all but two people spoke out against Tesco.

Parliamentary candidate for Tiverton and Honiton Jon Underwood, of Axmouth, said the decision had made a mockery of democracy.

He said: "It's a disgrace. It makes me ashamed to live in an area where democracy is clearly worthless.

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"What's the point of having consultation when it gets completely ignored?"

Devon County Council and Seaton town Cllr Jim Knight said: "Overall they had to make a decision. Whether it was the right decision, is for their conscience."

During the four hour meeting, district councillors referred to the stores as the south store (Tesco) and the north store (Sainsbury's).

Concluding, Cllr and chairman Paul Diviani said: "It's not a brand name we are looking at here, but what we can get for Seaton that's going to happen.

"My inclination is that the south store is the one we should be going with because I think it's got more on offer than the north one."

Ann Liverton also spoke in favour of the Tesco application, citing reasons such as it is on amenity land, ready for development, would not affect a green belt area and would have ample car parking available for visitors.

Cllr Mike Green agreed that in terms of planning it was the better application, while

Cllr Geoff Chamberlain argued it would be a catalyst for regeneration.

Cllr Ray Franklin added: "Seaton has got to move forward. To stagnate means decay."

On hearing the comments, some members of the public left the meeting before the voting was cast.

Cllr Bob Buxton said he was 'sitting on the fence' and abstained from voting.

But Cllr Steve Wragg opposed the recommendation for Tesco. He said: "Seaton Town Council and all elected ward members and the majority of the public want a supermarket, but clearly they want it on the North side of town."

He said that regeneration was the key issue and a visitor centre was needed.

He added: "I'm just very disappointed we have listened to this debate and haven't taken it on board."

Sainsbury's had proposed over �1.8 million for a range of facilities, such as a Tourist Information Centre and a Sustrans cycle route.

But Kate Little, EDDC's head of planning, argued at the start of the meeting the offer may not be legally binding as the store did not own the land or have an interests over it.

This was later rebuked by Bruno Moore, representing Sainsbury's, who said the Law Society had advised them a Section 106 would be granted in these circumstances.

He said: "Sainsbury's very clearly failed to persuade planning officers. But clearly it hasn't failed to persuade the people of Seaton of its planning scheme."

Following the decision, a spokesperson for Sainsbury's said: "We are disappointed and considering our options."

Tesco's proposals include a store with petrol filling station, car parking, and housing and a hotel. It was recommended for approval by planning officers on condition the supermarket chain contributes to the town, such as �1.7 million towards the proposed Seaton Visitor Centre.

Melanie Chiswell, corporate affairs manager at Tesco, said it was a positive, long-awaited outcome for the store.

She said: "I'm delighted with the result. I appreciate it was a difficult decision for councillors but I believe they were fair and made the right decision.

"I still maintain there is a silent majority in Seaton who do want our store and the rest of the regeneration proposals.

"We do want to be part of the regeneration site. We do want to see it all come forward. We want a site where there is housing and a hotel, not a derelict site. We are keen to get on with it now.