Calls have been made to delay a decision over the proposed new Sainsbury’s supermarket in Southport.
The fate of the planned new store, at Meols Cop Retail Park, is due to come before Sefton Council’s Planning Committee next Wednesday (August 12).
But with Southport still assessing the damage caused to businesses by the coronavirus pandemic and with the Southport Town Deal board currently drawing up a masterplan for Southport, Sefton Lib Dem leader John Pugh says it is too premature to decide on the application.
Sainsbury’s had been granted permission in 2016 to build a huge 10,942 sq m store, but now wants to build a smaller 7,596 sq m supermarket. Sainsbury’s says 200 new jobs would be created.
Cllr Pugh said: “The whole scheme got the go-ahead originally because consultants told the council that Southport town centre was in rude health and not at all threatened.
“Only the clinically deluded can think that now. The council and its officers should not, cannot, and I hope will not just wave this scheme because they previously backed it.
“At the very least they must seek the endorsement of the new Southport Town Deal Board who are even now bidding for substantial amounts of Government cash to revitalise the town centre.
“The Town Centre Board have consultants too who may well have a very different take and believe like most people that Southport’s retail area should be more concentrated. At any rate there is an overwhelming case for deferring any decision until the bid for Government cash has been submitted and the plans of the Town Deal Board revealed.”
If the Meols Cop retail park store is built, then it would include a planning condition that Sainsbury’s must keep open its Southport town centre store for the next five years, after which it could close.
Cllr Pugh said: “Drawing people away from the town centre and having Sainsbury’s desert Lord Street is utterly unhelpful in a climate already blighted by Covid.
“One part of the council is trying to get on the front foot so far as the town centre is concerned, while another part might stubbornly insist on shooting itself in the exact same foot.
“With the explosion in door-to-door deliveries, I really think that Sainsbury’s would have given up on this scheme before now were it not for the bizarrely receptive attitude of the council.
“Now the facts are changed, one can hope opinions will too.”