THE sale of the Waitrose car park in Christchurch by BCP Council has been effectively scrapped.

Yesterday the council’s overview and scrutiny committee voted through a resolution that the council should not proceed with the sell off negotiated by the Conservative administration.

The matter will now go before full council tonight where Tory councillors will abstain - apart from local member Peter Hall.

Council leader, Cllr Drew Mellor, said the sale was a good deal for Christchurch and would secure the future of Waitrose in the town.

But he added: “Is the Waitrose threat to leave just a negotiating tactic or is it a real risk. It’s a judgement call.”

He said that judgement call was now up to local members in Christchurch to decide as all but one of the ruling party will sit on their hands tonight.

Ward councillor, Mike Cox, said: “I really don’t see see there is a threat of Waitrose leaving. There is not a cat in hell’s chance. This is prime territory for them. If they can’t make money here they should pack up and go home.”

He criticised the council’s valuation report as “back of the envelope stuff.”

But he added: “We want Waitrose to stay and we want to do business with them.”

Cllr Marcus Andrews criticised the lack of options in the council paper.

The ‘no sale’ motion was proposed by Cllr Lesley Dedman, the town mayor, who said the issue was a litmus test of the Conservative administration’s attitude to Christchurch.

“There is still a lot of concern in the borough and indeed outside about Christchurch being asset stripped.”

She added: “There have always been too many unanswered questions about this sale. Thank goodness there has now been proper and effective scrutiny.”

The Echo understands that there have been no negotiations over the £1.5m sale with Waitrose, but all with the freeholder Aberdeen Asset Management.

Yesterday the Echo reported that doubts had been cast over claims that Waitrose could quit the store if its landlord could not buy the car park.

A memo from the management told staff not to worry about claims the store might close. The memo said the firm had long sought to secure the car park as part of its lease agreement It said: “I wanted to give an update on the story in the Bournemouth Echo on Waitrose using the lease renewal as a bargaining chip to gain control of the car park.

“The official answer is, we have long been seeking to secure the car park. I would advise everyone not to panic, this is all quite common in lease negotiations. You will all have seen the recent investment in the shop with the new fire alarms, new headsets coming in, wifi upgrades and the confidence in us taking on more e-commerce.”