A MULTI-MILLION pound development plan has been given the go-ahead after a controversial planning meeting on three Christchurch supermarket schemes.

Approval was granted for the Bailey Drive proposal, which includes a large foodstore creating 300 jobs, as well as a low-cost gym, 25 units of affordable housing and a community play park.

Two other applications – one for a Morrisons at Stony Lane on the Beagle Technology Group site and another foodstore at Meteor Retail Park in Somerford – were refused by councillors.

All three schemes had been recommended for refusal but members voted 4-3 to overturn the recommendation and approve the Bailey Drive scheme after a five-hour meeting at Christchurch council on Thursday.

Questions of consistency were raised by officers but members felt the affordable housing and prospect of shoppers staying in Christchurch rather than migrating to Bournemouth was too valuable to refuse.

As part of Morrisons’ proposal for the Stony Lane site, Jack Lovell, one of Beagle’s directors, said the company faced an “uncertain future” should the scheme be turned down.

He told the committee: “We are ready to go if granted and would relocate within the borough.

“There are agreements in place with Manchester Airports Group for us to move to Bournemouth Airport but if not granted we will stay put. The existing market is shrinking and we will shrink with it. It won’t be a happy story.”

But councillors, unhappy with the scale of the development, refused to accept the scheme.

Beagle would have relocated to a site at the airport, sustaining 129 jobs in Christchurch as well as creating more jobs with Morrisons also generating around 300 extra jobs.

With Meteor’s application councillors were keen to see an extant permission from three years ago for a foodstore and three other units carried out.

Both Beagle and Meteor developers Brookhouse said they were “disappointed” with the decisions.

The application will now be sent to the Secretary of State.

Committee considers court site

The Magistrates Court site in Christchurch featured heavily in the planning committee’s decision making.

The site formed part of the officers’ recommendation for refusal, as a ‘reasonably available, suitable and viable’ site.

Despite the development brief being out-of-date, the Dorset Development Partnership, which represents the land owners including Christchurch council, plans to submit a planning application in the next year.

Councillors weighed their decisions against this site as well as the impact on the town centre.

MD 'overjoyed

Julian Shaffer, managing director of Bournemouth-based Quantum said: “We are overjoyed. We didn’t dare expect this result but it is wonderful.

“What was good was that committee members recognised that you should not allow an interpretation of policy to get in the way of good for the borough.

“We will immediately start looking at hammering out the details.”