Chair of Chippenham regeneration body resigns over Sainsbury's extension

The chair of a partnership of local authorities and business groups that aims to regenerate Chippenham town centre has resigned in protest at Wiltshire Council's decision to grant planning permission for Sainsbury's to expand an out-of-town store.

Chippenham Vision chair John Clark said he resigned in order to go public with his criticism of the decision made by Wiltshire Council – one of the Chippenham Vision partners – to grant planning permission for Sainsbury's to extend the sales area in its Bath Road store by 2,522 square metres.

Clark described this week’s decision by the council’s northern area planning committee as "appalling".

He added that the decision represented a "huge and unnecessary body blow to the town centre and that of [nearby] Corsham".

Clark said that Chippenham Vision – of which he had been chair for three years – was trying to regenerate the town, but the council’s planning committee was "scoring own goals" with decisions such as the Sainsbury’s expansion.

He said the approval was particularly galling coming the "very day after the publication of the excellent Portas report", the government-commisioned review of the future of town centres.

But, according to council documents, the local authority decided that the extension would not have a "significant adverse impact" on the viability of Chippenham town centre.

A Sainsbury’s spokesman said: "We have been in consultation for 18 months and the feedback we received helped to shape our plans for Chippenham. The independent retail consultants appointed by Wiltshire Council confirmed that Sainsbury’s proposed development complies with the requirements of PPS4 [the statement of national planning policy for econonomic growth], and that it would not have significant adverse impacts on planned town centre investment.

"Elected councillors on the planning committee discussed the proposals at length and ultimately resolved to grant planning permission, in line with the recommendation received from the council’s planning officer."

Planning asked the council for its reaction to Clark's comments, but at the time of writing it had not responded.

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