CONCERNS about the divide left in Tenbury by the Tesco supermarket controversy united both supporters and opponents at the planning meeting that approved the scheme.
Now the town must wait to see if the opponents take their fight further by seeking a judicial review.
A Malvern Hills District Council planning committee meeting at Tenbury High School approved the supermarket plan for the former cattle market site by a majority of 11 to one with four abstentions.
But this is does not tell the story of the passion of a marathon four-hour meeting in the packed hall.
Speaking for Tenbury Futures, Andrew Stephenson urged the committee to reject a scheme that he said would result in net loss of 100 jobs and was opposed by English Heritage, the Campaign for the Protection of Rural England, both the Tenbury and Burford civic societies and the Victorian Society.
Mr Stephenson warned the scheme could damage the town ‘beyond repair’ and could sound the death knell for struggling independent traders.
“This has created a lingering acrimonious split within our community,” he said.
“It is very similar to the plan that was rejected by this committee last year.”
Phil Grove, leader of Malvern Hills District Council and councillor for the town, struck a sombre note.
“There are no winners tonight because this town is split. If we approve this there will be people who will be delighted and others will be very disappointed,”
“Whatever decision we make this evening, there will either be an appeal or a judicial review.”
The council leader said there could be no dispute that the former cattle market site needed regeneration but he did not think the new plan was sufficiently different to the previously refused one.
He believed the supermarket was too big and unsuccessfully proposed that the plan be rejected.
However Tony Penn, fellow Conservative group member on the district council, made a blistering attack on the objectors.
“The objectors do not represent the local people,” he said. “There is a large majority of people in Tenbury who welcome this development.”
He claimed that a significant number of the objectors did not even come from Tenbury.
He said the Tesco development offered a great opportunity for the town with jobs, an improved riverside walk, a more attractive public realm and a new community transport scheme.
George Price, speaking for Tenbury Town Council, said that the authority supported the Tesco application because it would bring back into use a derelict site and add vibrancy to the town.
He challenged the claim of objectors to represent the majority view in Tenbury.
“It is my experience that the overall majority of residents are in favour,”
said Coun Price.
After approving the Tesco scheme, planners went on to grant permission for the demolition of the Russell, Baldwin and Bright building on the site which has to be demolished for the development to go ahead.
But this also resulted in an acrimonious debate in which Matt Crawford, for Tenbury Futures, urged councillors to take the opportunity to “right a wrong”.
He described the old infirmary as a “much-loved old building” and an important part of Tenbury’s Heritage.
However, Councillor Penn said: “Much loved old building? I wonder who is kidding who. It’s a dump.”