PLANNING chiefs have given the thumbs-up to a multi-million pound scheme for a Tesco superstore and to redevelop Lancashire County Cricket Club's Old Trafford ground.
The planning committee agreed it was 'minded to grant' the controversial proposal that will see the retail giant open a 170,000 sq ft store on land fronting Chester Road. It will now be referred to the Government Office for the North West for a final decision - unless the Government calls it in for an inquiry.
Tesco will pay £21m for a plot of land that the council will then use to fund LCCC's next phase of a £33m development of its ground. The club says these improvements are essential if it is to regain Test match status. An application by Derwent Holdings for a 90.000 sq ft Sainsbury's supermarket to open on nearby White City Retail Park was rejected by the planning committee, mainly because it would impact on trade in the area.
A report into the Tesco/Lancashire plan concluded that while that would have an 'adverse' impact on trade in the surrounding areas, this would not be significant. Campaigners for and against the schemes demonstrated outside Trafford Town Hall ahead of a packed meeting which considered the applications last night.
Opponents claimed a 170,000 sq ft Tesco superstore would have a devastating effect on trade in surrounding areas, particularly Stretford where Stretford Mall went into receivership on the day of the meeting.
Some of these campaigners favoured the council backing the Sainsbury's option at White City, with Derwent also pledging to provide £21m to Trafford Council to fund ground improvements at Lancashire.
But Lancashire and Ask Developments, the developer behind the Tesco/Lancashire scheme, said their plans would provide a multi-million pound regeneration of the area, hundreds of jobs and a world class stadium for Lancashire.
Speaking against the Tesco/Lancashire plan, Labour group leader and Gorse Hill councillor David Acton said: "Stretford Mall has gone into administration and it is obviously struggling - a large Tesco would absolutely kill it off.
"I support Lancashire's regeneration - but not on the back of Tesco. That is wrong."
Another Gorse Hill councillor, Mike Cordingley, said of the Tesco plan: "This application is just too big -it will signal the death knell for Stretford, which is on life support as it is."
Jim Cumbes, the chief executive of Lancashire, said they had explored every possible funding option, and this proposal was essential to deliver a world class stadium at Old Trafford that could host international cricket.
Alan Burke, from Ask Developments, said the scheme amounted to an investment of £70m and would provide 600 jobs in the area, and half of these to the long-term unemployed.
Planning committee member Sean Anstee spoke in support of the Tesco/Lancashire plan. He said: "This is about making Stretford, Gorse Hill and Old Trafford a better place to live. We have an opportunity to transform the area."
Cllr Mike Whetton said he had concerns about the size of the Tesco store but "I have to concede the application is the right one to go forward."
But Cllr Laurence Walsh pointed out the committee had refused an application for a smaller Tesco of 85,000 sq ft in 2006 and this was upheld on appeal. He believed the committee should be consistent and reject it again.
The committeee members were told that in reaching their decision on Tesco they should ignore the link to the regeneration of Lancashire's ground, and consider it on its own merits.
They voted to refuse the Derwent Holdings scheme for White City Retail Park by 8-4 and to support the Tesco/Lancashire plan by 8-4.
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