Tuesday, April 17, 2012

The Great Westgate Sainsbury's Debate

It was an emotionally charged atmosphere at the public meeting to discuss Sainsbury's in Westgate, yesterday evening, with over two hundred people attending at the Carlton cinema; the old town hall building.

The meeting started with a series of short presentations from the guests on the stage. Gerald Knight represented the supermarket chain, Reg Bell, the local traders, Cllr Tom King, the Westgate Residents, Cllr Alasdair Bruce, Birchington residents, Cllr Robert Burgess, gave the Kent County Council (KCC) perspective and Simon Thomas of Thanet District Council answered questions on planning process.

I'm sure the local paper will give a more detailed report on Friday but in brief summary, Cllr Burgess said that KCC were unhappy with the application from a highways perspective and Reg Bell explained why he believed the application could be challenged in respect to the potential impact on the surrounding economy.

As you might expect, those in favour of the new supermarket were greatly outnumbered by those vigorously against the plan for a wide variety of reasons. The embattled Sainsbury's team of experts, present to answer questions from the public, were given a very hard ride indeed, when the debate moved to the floor for questions from the public. At times I struggled to keep the debate on topic, which was a Sainsbury's store in Westgate, rather than the equally controversial subject of predatory supermarkets in general. Sainsbury's at one point, suggesting that local traders "Up their game" I thought unlikely to win hearts and minds among the audience.

Thanet North MP, Sir Roger Gale, was unable to attend but sent  a letter of support, which was read-out by Cllr Bruce:

"I have looked at the  proposals and can find no grounds for supporting them.

The designs are out of keeping with the local townscape. There is no clamour for such a facility in the area and, most importantly of the company`s proposals are unacceptable on highways grounds.

Members of Parliament have limited powers in relation to planning applications as the latter are the responsibility of the Local Authority and, upon appeal, of the Secretary of State. I shall, however, exert such influence as I have to oppose the  application and to support those very many local people – my constituents – who are equally opposed to the plan."

Sainsbury`s might do well to learn from the “Tesco Experience” in Herne Village."


If you wish to express your support for the development or object, you have until 27th April to write or email into Democratic Service at Thanet District Council giving your reasons. The planning reference is: F/TH/12/0220 and there's more information on previous weblog entries here.

Alternatively, you can send a letter or email to one of your local councillors who will pass it on for you.

My thanks, once again, to the Carlton cinema for hosting the meeting and to everyone involved for attending and expressing their opinions.

Before I forget... the new SelectSpecs in Station Road, Westgate will be having its grand opening late on Friday afternoon. Among the guests, Mayor of Margate, Iris Johnston, will be cutting the ribbon and Sir Roger Gale will be there too.

26 comments:

Anonymous said...

Having been there last night - Gerald Knight & his colleagues were absolutely USELESS.. I spoke to one of them after the meeting & asked about the plans, she replied "I haven't seen the plans, so I can't comment". What was the point of them even being there???

Anonymous said...

Nice to see 'real' councillors at work, not so sure about Mr Burgess though!

Anonymous said...

Totally agree with you on that one...Mr Burgess...ummmm!!

Anonymous said...

So John Worrow didn't turn up for a meeting in the area he "represents" where over 200 people were present, yet he attends a meeting for militant homosexuals in Margate featuring just a handful of (very quite) people?

Tony2 said...

Our Westbrook Councillors did not attend either. We have not seen Mick Tomlinson since just after the last election.
Good job Simon as chair last night controlling the meeting so all views could be heard in a civilised debate despite a charged atmosphere.

Mike Morris said...

I was unable to attend the meeting last night due to a prior engagement in London, but my wife represented our views which are mainly the chaos that the traffic issues will cause.

She was still fuming at midnight because of the inappropriate comments made by the Sainsburys team, but felt that the meeting did tell them that they are not wanted in Westgate!

She did comment on how well Reg Bell and the other speakers represented the views of the traders, and how the meeting was run and so thanks and congrats for managing to do such a good job in what were apparently very trying circumstances.

Fingers crossed that the powers that be can see through this blatant attack on our struggling villages and sent this daft idea packing.

Anonymous said...

What were the "inappropriate comments"?

Birch Tree said...

Tony2,we in Birchington was represented by our only 'real' councillor. The others are either self serving or do nothing - clearly none of them except Cllr Bruce can be bothered to help the residents and traders.

Tom Clarke said...

Interesting how Cllr. Worrow seems to pick and choose what he considers worthy of supporting in the interests of the people he is supposed to represent. Would not mind betting that far more are concerned about a supermarket on a main road adjacent to several schools than they are about same sex marriage.

Mind you, he has promised them a Gay Day at Minnis Bay in the summer for which we are all eagerly awaiting with bated breath. Still working on my Boy George lookalike outfit!

Anonymous said...

I, too, think all three local councillors did very well last night. They and Reg Bell put up an excellent case. As for Robert Burgess, he only seemed to be on KCC's side .

Anonymous said...

I thought the Sainsbury's representatives were poorly prepared and amateur in their presentation.
I don't think they did much research into what possible objections would be raised by the public and they seemed caught-out on a number of points.
Perhaps the thought they were dealing with a bunch of small-town hicks and could just rely on dazzling us with their personalities!..........Wrong!

Anonymous said...

So, one large business (Sainsbury) isn't allowed in Westgate but another large business is (Specsavers) ?

simon moores said...

3:29 Could you expand on your argument a little more please? In particular how the two might be in any way equivalent issues?

Anonymous said...

3.29 if you can't see the difference.........you should have gone to Specsavers!

Anonymous said...

Think u find it has nothing to do with specsavers!!!! And by the way, we are talking about Sainsbury's on Hundreds farm!!! Not in the Westgate town!!! Good luck to the Opticians.

James Maskell said...

So Birchington North's newly elected Parish Councillors Cohen and Worrow didnt turn up? Coincidentally their election was confirmed yesterday!

Reading the paperwork, did they really name themselves the "Independents Putting Birchington First Cohen Worrow" Party?

Anonymous said...

I am also against the idea of a big supermarket in or around westgate. What I dont understand is that there is so many against Sainsbury's on the canterbury road, but no ones talking about the Tesco's on Station Road in westgate.

Unless I've missed something, I thought someone said Tesco's was planning to build next to the train station on one of the comments on this blogsite?

Anonymous said...

Found the Tesco in Station Road Westgate post. It's at the bottom of Dr M's post called SQUEEZE MIDDLE on the 17th March.

Peter Checksfield said...

Tesco's hardly likely to be a big supermarket on that site. I assume it'll be a similar size to the other supermarket in Westgate, so a little healthy competition will do everyone good (as it used to in Birchington when they had two different supermarkets instead of the two co-ops they've got now).

Anonymous said...

Surprisingly Peter, I actually agree with you this time!!!! If Tesco decide to put in planning for a very small store in Westgate, it will keep the shoppers shopping in Westgate town....

simon moores said...

Inappropriate position and commercial development with an appearance not in keeping with the conservation status of the town. I suspect it might fail at the first hurdle if any application is made.

Anonymous said...

I think you'll find the opticians is nothing to do with Specsavers - it's called Selectspecs and is primarily an online business.
Would have expected you to get the name \ details correct Simon !!

simon moores said...

My apologies. mental slip there, a consequence of advancing middle age perhaps! Thanks for correcting me.

Anonymous said...

How do you feel now Simon about the Tesco superstore at Arlington given we now have the disaster at Westbrook and how people feel about the proposed Sainsburys?

Anonymous said...

What "disaster" at Westbrook? People are actually shopping in the area in masses for the first time in years, with places like Mario's and the nearby hairdressers reporting an upturn in trade!

Tim said...

I was also at the meeting &, whilst I agree that the Sainsburys team were, in some areas, underprepared & that some comments were "unfortunate", they were really under the cosh from the moment they arrived. Even the first speaker was interrupted with cries of "rubbish" when quoting facts from market research.
I am sure that it is a majority who their main shop at W+ - I do, but then support the specialist shops in the villages (Meads, Brills, Coastal Electrics, fruit & veg shops etc.) I also top-up at the local supermarkets.
One "commenter" on the evening gleefully snided that "they dont only go to W+ shop at Sainsburys". No, they go to Wickes / Homebase / Currys / Comet etc. & deprive local shops like those above. Should the proposal go ahead, it would keep people away from W+ & may mean that they use the high streets in W/G & Birch more.
Comment was made about the lorries turning into the service area & that they could not be seen. Actually this is rubbish. The current entrance is at the bottom of the hill & could be approached unawares, whereas the planned S.B. entrance is back near the top of the hill. If any drivers do not see a £"&&^ great lorry waiting there, their eyesight is not up to driving.
I also know for a fact, having spoken to some objectors, that they will of course use SB if it goes ahead. 'Nuff said.