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Supermarket row decision looming
SAINSBURY’S will this week decide whether it will press ahead with a new superstore in Bicester after the row over a new Tesco in the town.
Bosses have threatened to stop work to fit out the store – part of a £70m town centre redevelopment – after the out-of-town Tesco got council approval.
The Sainsbury’s is currently under construction and due to open in the summer.
The supermarket chain announced plans to extend the store by up to 30 per cent to compete with the new Tesco, which will go on land opposite Bicester Village.
Cherwell District Council’s planning committee approved the Sainsbury’s extension – an internal mezzanine – on February 28.
This will boost the supermarket from 4,842 sqm retail floor space to 6,292 sqm compared to 5,151 sqm for Tesco, approved in January.
A Sainsbury’s spokesman said a decision is expected this week.
He said: “The council has had a long term aspiration to encourage new investment in Bicester town centre, which we have been working in partnership with the council to deliver for a number of years.
“The redevelopment was specifically designed to create new retail and leisure facilities in the heart of Bicester, to encourage more people to use the town centre, increasing footfall and benefiting all town centre businesses.
“It has taken many years of work to make the redevelopment possible and the approval of the Tesco and Bicester Village applications now threatens its future long term success.”
The firm warned it would consider whether to fit out the shop after Tesco was given approval by the committee on January 4. It argued the store would have a detrimental impact on the town centre and its traders.
Committee member David Hughes said of the Sainsbury’s scheme: “I think this will help with the viability and versatility of the town centre scheme.”
But Sallie Wright, 68, of Colne Close, Bicester, said the Tesco plan was needed as it would bring with it road changes to combat Bicester Village traffic.
A new roundabout is among £11m in improvements for the A41, Oxford Road and Pingle Drive.
She said of Sainsbury’s: “The increased store size is a good thing because they will encourage more people into the town centre. There is more than enough scope for Bicester to easily sustain two big supermarkets.”
Sainsbury’s is a partner with the council for the town centre plans, to include a cinema, shops, restaurants and 566 car parking spaces.
The Tesco plans were referred to Eric Pickles, Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, as they do not feature in council policies for future major development in Bicester.
The Government last week confirmed it would not be “calling in” the application to make a decision itself.
But there is a 12-week period once the council has formally issued planning permission where anyone can make a legal challenge and seek a judicial review.