A FOUR-day public inquiry, which closes in Williton today (Friday), will finally decide the fate of Williton businessman David Gliddon’s controversial £7 million supermarket scheme on land he owns in the village.
Government inspector David Wildsmith will give his verdict later this year on the development West Somerset Council’s planning committee has turned down three times in the last five years.
The inquiry, into West Somerset Council’s planning decisions, came after appeals by J Gliddon and Sons against a refusal to allow the development, which included a flagship supermarket the size of Lidl’s Minehead store.
Since the hearing started on Tuesday, Mr Wildsmith heard over 25 hours of evidence and cross-examination, and scrutinised 470 reports, documents and letters.
He visited the site, and also Lloyds Bank in Fore Street, which would be part of any future development.
If finally approved, the scheme, on land behind Mr Gliddon’s shops in Bank Street, would include retail shops, professional and financial services, residential dwellings, car parking and landscaping
The committee had also rejected Mr Gliddon’s plans to build retail units on part of the site, and a pedestrian walkway partially demolishing Lloyds Bank.
But that decision was reversed last February when outline planning permission was granted.
Counsel for Gliddon’s, Paul Tucker QC, told the inquiry that Williton would expand by 400 homes in the next decade and would need improved shopping facilities.
He said that at the heart of Williton’s facilities was its existing town centre which “was not punching at its expected weight since obvious day-to-day needs were not being properly met by its existing retail offer”.
Supporting the council’s case, town planner Matthew Morris claimed that a new supermarket would have “a significant and unacceptable adverse impact” on the financial performance of village centre stores.
He believed that the proposed supermarket would remove £2.66 million of convenience goods expenditure from the village centre by 2021– a 56 per cent impact – and a 40 per cent overall impact on the village’s total turnover.
Full report in the Free Press (May26)