Final obstacle to Harborough Tesco store is removed

The Government has decided  it will not be intervening in Harborough's  controversial Tesco superstore plan
The Government has decided it will not be intervening in Harborough's controversial Tesco superstore plan

The Government has decided it will not be intervening in Harborough’s controversial Tesco superstore plan.

The decision, announced in a letter to Harborough Council last week, seems to remove the last obstacle to the out-of-town superstore being built on land off Rockingham Road.

A Liberal Democrat group led by district councillor Phil Knowles had sought to get the plan reconsidered by the Department for Communities and Local Government after the district council’s planning committee give Tesco the green light in the spring.

They appealed to the Government in September and the Tesco decision was put on hold until the Government’s ruling.

Cllr Knowles said: “It’s disappointing that the Secretary of State is not going to look at this plan in more detail.”

Tesco’s corporate affairs manager Simon Petar said there now remained just the odd minor detail to sort out with the district council.

He said he was not yet in a position to say when building work could start at the former Focus DIY site.

But he added: “It means now the road is clear.”

The letter from the Government to the Tory-run district council stated: “The Secretary of State has decided not to call-in this application.

“He is content that it should be determined by Harborough Council.”

The council’s planning committee gave Tesco permission for its store proposal in May. There had been a strong campaign against the Tesco move, with Harborough Chamber of Trade president Ian Joule at the forefront.

Traders are worried an out-of-town store will harm the thriving town centre, which has so far defied the recession and the general decline of high streets.

But the council’s planning committee passed the Tesco plan on the casting vote of committee chairman Cllr Rosita Page.

That is when a small delegation of councillors sought to get the Government to intervene. Lib Dem councillors Phil Knowles, Sarah Hill and Barbara Johnson wrote to minister Eric Pickles’ office on September 10.

Their letter came as some campaigners called into question the council’s projected figures on the Tesco store, including Michael Weedon, deputy chief executive of the British Independent Retailers’ Association.

Among the final details being hammered out with Tesco and the council is money to be paid by the company for community projects.