Campaigners who led the battle against a new Sainsbury’s store in Hebden Bridge are celebrating after an appeal by the supermarket giant was dismissed.
The application, submitted by Eshton Gregory Ltd, proposed that a £1.5 million Sainsbury’s Local store be built on the former Hebden Bridge Fire Station site on Valley Road.
The plans were thwarted at a council meeting last year, following concerns over the free flow of traffic in the busy, narrow street.
But campaigners raised concerns when an appeal was lodged against the council’s decision in March.
The proposal contained two elements including a two-storey block which would contain the supermarket on the ground floor and part of the first floor.
The second part consisted of a three-storey block of five townhouses on Hangingroyd Lane.
But Hebden Bridge will now remain a Sainsbury’s free zone after the Planning Inspectorate ruled the harmful effects of the proposal on the local highway network would outweigh potential benefits.
Planning Inspector Anne Jordan, said: “I consider the main issue for the appeal to be the effect of the proposal on highway safety, including the loss of parking.
“At the time of my visit, the area in and around the site was experiencing significant parking pressure, and this was leading to to congestion on the surrounding streets, which impeded the free flow of traffic.
“This is confirmed by the views of the council and local residents who have also reported parking pressure in the area.
“Taking account of the congested condition of the surrounding streets which I witnessed first-hand, and which residents have reported, I consider it likely that the reduction in available on-street parking as proposed, would further exacerbate existing parking pressure.
“The proposal would fail to provide adequate servicing arrangements. It would also lead to a small but nonetheless significant loss of on street parking.
“This would exacerbate existing parking and congestion problems and would impede the free flow of traffic, causing inconvenience to road users.”
The Inspectorate rejected a number of the arguments of those opposed to the supermarket, including the impact of a national supermarket chain in a town predominantly made up of independent traders and the effect of the proposal on the Hebden Bridge Conservation Area.
The Planning Inspector concluded: “The proposal would bring the vacant site back to use and it would provide additional consumer choice. It would also provide eight new homes and provide 20 local jobs, in a sustainable location.
“These are matters to which I attribute significant weight. However, the effect of the proposal on the local highways network would also be significant and harmful.
“The harmful effects of the proposal on the local highway network outweight the potential benefits of the scheme.”
The SOS campaign group fought tirelessly to oppose the proposed plans and campaigners are now rejoicing following the decision.
Helen Dziemidko, of the group, said: “We are absolutely thrilled as the battle to keep Sainsbury’s out of the town has been going on for a long time.
“I know how hard people had been working before I arrived and I know how hard I worked to keep the ball rolling, it’s just a wonderful feeling that those stresses were all worthwhile.
“We’re very happy keeping Hebden Bridge as it is, as one of the only independent towns in the country.
“I’m hoping that something really creative for the town will happen there - I feel that having looked at the site since the appeal went in that the rejection was absolutely the right choice.
“The traffic there is a big problem and to increase that even a little bit would be just ridiculous. I know already I don’t go into Hebden Bridge as I can’t park, if you put a Sainsbury’s there you would increase that problem even more.
“I really, really want to thank everyone in Hebden Bridge for all their support during this really long campaign.”
Welcoming the Planning Inspectorate’s decision, Coun Janet Battye (Liberal Democrat, Calder), is now looking to the future and says an “exciting” development could occupy the site.
“I hope that this is a positive step forward for local people to be able to shape what use is made of this important site in the centre of Hebden Bridge,” she said.
“Hebden Royd Town Council, in conjunction with neighbouring Parish Councils, is beginning work on a Neighbourhood Plan – work that will involve local people.
“Hebden Bridge Partnership has established a working group specifically bring forward ideas for this site.
“This is an important site in the centre of the town and we have the chance to use it in a way that will be of long-term benefit for all those who live in, work in or visit Hebden Bridge.
“If it could be put together with the Council’s car park, there could be a really exciting development here. “Local people have a long history of creativity, and now we have an excellent opportunity to put that to good use.”
A spokesperson for Sainsbury’s said: “We have been working with the developer Eshton Gregory who applied for planning permission for a new store on Valley Road.
“We are very disappointed by the Planning Inspector’s decision as Sainsbury’s had hoped to lease the completed premises, offering high quality top-up shopping to the local community and creating up to 25 new jobs.
“We understand the developer is now considering their options.”