SUPERMARKET giant Morrisons has begun an appeal to win approval for a superstore in Christchurch.

Christchurch council rejected the supermarket plans for the Beagle site at Stony Lane for the third time last year, citing their main reason as concerns over the impact on the town centre.

But yesterday, a hearing headed up by planning inspector Alwyn Nixon, heard arguments from both the council and applicant Simons Developments over the controversial ruling, which went against council officer recommendations.

Represented by planning agent Ken Parke, Simons Developments and Beagle submitted their appeal to the Planning Inspectorate last year.

Most of the hearing was based on the council’s reasons for refusal which included the supermarket’s potential effect on the viability and vitality of the town centre as well as traffic problems.

Represented by three officers and three councillors, the local authority was also asked several times to clarify their reasons for refusal, with reference to planning policy, and also to provide more detail over their key points.

In reference to the council’s concerns over the impact on views from Stony Lane towards the Priory, the vice-chairman of the planning committee, Cllr Claire Bath, said the proposed building would “dominate” the views across to the historic listed church and make them “subservient” to the supermarket.

Chairman of the planning committee, Cllr Colin Jamieson added: “[The supermarket’s] proximity to the conservation area does not enhance it.”

But heritage consultant Duncan Coe, on behalf of Simons, said the existing Beagle buildings were “inappropriate and unsightly”.

He said current and proposed landscaping on site would “soften” views but argued current buildings of a similar scale already blocked the scene.

Mr Coe said the proposal would improve the situation from what currently exists.

“The plans replace the existing structure with more natural materials which will be allowed to weather over time”, he said.

“And the new buildings will not introduce a change to your ability to see those views [of the Priory].”

The hearing was expected to continue today with a site visit.