Tempers flare in store row
PUBLISHED: 11:50 13 December 2007 | UPDATED: 13:07 04 May 2010
TEMPERS are fraying over the council s controversial decision to refuse German supermarket, Lidl, and DIY giant Focus, the opportunity to open in the city. Councillors have attacked the city s planning regime, claiming officers are making more and more of
TEMPERS are fraying over the council's controversial decision to refuse German supermarket, Lidl, and DIY giant Focus, the opportunity to open in the city.
Councillors have attacked the city's planning regime, claiming officers are making more and more of the decisions that should be taken by elected members.
And residents have launched their own offensive accusing the city and district councils of not allowing more trade to come to Ely.
The news came as Lidl called a public meeting on Wednesday to gauge support for its Angel Drove plan.
The meeting was heated as angry residents told how they travel as far afield as Wisbech, King's Lynn and even Stowmarket to visit the supermarket.
One Soham resident said:"We all want more choice. I have shopped at Lidl elsewhere and think it would be a valuable addition to Ely.
"Not everybody wants, or can afford, to shop at Waitrose or Tesco. We are being forced to shop outside Ely by councillors' decisions that we have had no say in."
Now Lidl has launched a petition in support of its project and distributed 'Say Yes to Lidl' posters to residents at the meeting.
Ely City councillor and former Ely Perspective chairman, Cllr Philip Eden, told the meeting: "Nobody is stopping anybody from coming in. There are opportunities for large stores closer to the city centre, for example Lisle Lane. We all want to give people in Ely more choice."
Plans for Lidl and Focus DIY, on the Peck's site at Lisle Lane, were rejected under officers' delegated powers because there were fears they would promote out-of-town shopping, which would harm the "vitality and vibrancy of the city centre".
Independent district councillor, Derrick Beckett, was so incensed by the way the decisions were handled he raised the issue at a recent planning committee meeting and was judged "out of order".
"I am concerned that no member of the planning committee had been consulted on these plans," he told the Ely Standard. "I don't want to see a small inner circle of people who are influencing decisions which should be taken by democratically elected members.
"There are discrepancies at the way plans are being looked at."
Following Cllr Beckett's actions the issues will now be discussed at a future planning committee meeting.
Independent Littleport councillor, Andy Wright, said: "Major applications should be determined by the elected members. It is strange that officers seem to have the power to determine what is delegated. This needs to be changed."
Planning committee chairman, Conservative Cllr Philip Read, said: "I am concerned that the public want Lidl and Focus but it was not examined in public so they could have their say."
David Archer, East Cambridgeshire District Council's development director, said: "These applications became controversial after the event and our decision is not proving popular
"Our delegation system is such that we can meet Government targets for dealing with planning applications in the prescribed time.
"But Lidl's new application and any future major applications will be going before the council's planning committee."
n In an Ely Standard on-line poll, 79 per cent of people said 'Yes' to Lidl.