By Anna Whittaker, Local Democracy Reporter
Contentious plans for a new Sainsbury’s in Southwell have been turned down by councillors.
Newark and Sherwood District Council’s planning committee unanimously rejected the proposals on Thursday evening (March 16).
The supermarket giant had applied to build an outlet on grassland off Nottingham Road in Southwell.
Some residents said there was an “urgent need” for other retail options in the town as the only other supermarket is a Co-op, which some said has a “monopoly” and is “very expensive”.
But others had argued against the development, saying it would ruin the character of the town and affect some smaller local businesses.
Council officers had already said they were not satisfied with the environmental impacts of the development and recommended the application for refusal.
Chair of the meeting Cllr Roger Blaney (Con) said assessing the application, which was first submitted in 2021, had been a “herculean task” and a “torturous process throughout”.
Cllr Penny Rainbow (Con), representing Southwell, said: “It is a major application with knock-on consequences for the economy, employment, the environment and highway safety.
“I was unsure whether to declare an interest because I have to confess Sainsbury’s is my chosen supermarket.
“The viability and character of the town will be threatened by this development.
“Southwell is unique, it is the jewel in Nottinghamshire’s crown and therefore precious and we are mere custodians. It is with a heavy heart that I agree with the officer’s recommendation of refusal.”
Cllr Malcolm Brock (Lib Dem) said: “There are two camps here with very different views.
“A lot of the comments have been about the Co-op. If the Co-op is listening to this, they are in imminent danger of losing the support of a large proportion of the Southwell community.
“Co-op, it is wake up time for you.”
Sainsbury’s said the development would have created 40 jobs and the supermarket would include an Argos click and collect service.
Supporters of the plans said it would “bring Southwell into 21st century”, but objectors said it is the wrong site for a new supermarket.
Cllr Peter Harris (Lib Dem) who represents Southwell said he felt the stated economic benefits of the proposals were “slightly exaggerated”.
He said: “I would urge the committee to support the officer’s recommendation and refuse this.”
Councillor Peter Scorer (Lib Dem) of Southwell Town Council, which objected to the plans, said: “This application lies away from the town centre.
“I’d remind councillors that the Sainsbury’s application for the site just over the road [in Newark] was refused on the grounds of the impact in the town centre’s shopping in Newark.
“The principle I believe should apply to this application in Southwell. There are still concerns about road safety.
“To allow this development would create an unfortunate precedent for other such applications in the future.”
Southwell Civic Society says the development “would irreversibly alter the character and identity of the town”.
They raised concerns about highway safety and environmental impacts due to the proposed loss of trees and hedgerows.
A total of 62 people submitted objections to the plans and 217 lodged formal support for them.
Those supporting the development said the outlet is “urgently needed” in Southwell and add the supermarket would bring jobs and growth to the area.
They added it is “unreasonable” for residents in Southwell to take long round trips to do big food shops.
“This will bring Southwell into 21st century – why should it have only one supermarket considering the housing growth in the last 20 years,” some supporters of the plans wrote.
But objectors said it was the wrong site for the development and claimed that if the plans were approved it could lead to smaller shops closing as they “can’t compete on price, especially with an Argos”.