A COUNCILLOR who proposed the refusal of Morrisons at Stony Lane has defended the reasons for rejecting the scheme.

Cllr Claire Bath, portfolio holder for economy, led the charge against the multi-million pound scheme, with members eventually voting 7-2 to refuse it.

Deliberations took more than an hour after the refusal was first proposed by Cllr Bath, with officers repeatedly stressing councillors must base their refusal on evidence and planning law.

A packed council chamber sat for more than three hours while the application for the supermarket was heard at Christchurch council on Thursday night.

Representatives from Beagle and Morrisons spoke in support of the scheme while developers of Asda’s Bailey Drive scheme, Quantum, opposed the scheme.

Just two days before the special meeting Quantum had issued an ultimatum that Asda would pull out of their site, if another supermarket scheme was approved.

If Morrisons had been approved, it would have enabled Beagle to move to new premises, taking on more staff and adding to the 300 jobs the food store would have provided.

Concerns were expressed mainly about the impact on the town centre as well as the affect on the local conservation area, flooding issues and the impact of traffic on Castle Street, Bridge Street and Purewell.

The findings of a retail report commissioned by the council from Nathaniel Lichfield and Partners, was dismissed by those rejecting the plans.

Cllr Bath said there was a “lack of evidence to support the report.”

“I would not have voiced the opinions I had if I didn’t believe the evidence we had around the 20 per cent linked trips was not robust enough”, she told the Daily Echo.

“I am very supportive of Beagle as a company; I’m not against them or Morrisons, in fact I would like to see a Morrisons in the town.

“But the most important issue to me, particularly being the economy portfolio holder, was the viability of the town centre.

“The study was two-and-a-half years out of date and a lot has changed. Lidl has opened and people’s shopping habits have changed.

“I have looked through both reports and I could not see anything that convinced me they had gone back out to the market. To me it wasn’t enough.”

She did not believe officers would defend a potential appeal, as they had recommended the scheme for approval.

Christchurch council

We asked Christchurch council to comment on members’ lack of confidence in the NLP report as well as whether officers would be defending a possible appeal by Morrisons.

They refused to comment until the full agenda had been discussed.

James Hassett, head of growth and economy at Christchurch Borough Council, said: “The meeting was adjourned and there are still other items on the agenda which will be discussed when the meeting reconvenes on 30 January.

“The report by Nathaniel Lichfield & Partners is pertinent to those other items and we are therefore unwilling to comment on aspects of the decision already made until the full meeting is concluded.”