County Council ‘to blame’ for new store delay

Cllr Sam Souster , Rye. 28/9/11
Cllr Sam Souster , Rye. 28/9/11

RYE Town and District councillor Sam Souster has placed the blame for the ongoing supermarket mess squarely at the door of East Sussex County Council.

Former Rye Mayor Sam has questioned why the county council agreed an 11th hour deal with Sainsburys after originally offering the Lower School site to Tesco.

Rother Council granted planning permission to both supermarket giants early last year. Since then there has been stalemate between them.

Cllr Souster said: “The land in question was East Sussex County Council owned, and was in the Local Plan for housing, badly needed as demonstrated with the later development at Valley Park.

“One can only assume an offer from a retail giant was financially more attractive and could not be resisted.

There was much speculation as to the identity of the company involved, and a long time elapsed before the MP at the time, Michael Foster, had it confirmed by letter, following which the Observer printed a banner headline of just one word Tesco, leaving no-one in doubt. At this time Tesco set about ensuring that access to the site was possible by acquiring the pub.

“Only ESCC can explain how at the 11th hour a deal was struck with Sainsbury – could it be that a better financial offer was made? At this point ESCC should have realised the problem it had created, certainly when Tesco also submitted a planning application to develop the site, and then both applications were approved.

“Claims, by the public, that Rother Council is responsible for this stalemate are neither accurate nor fair.

“The expectation that RDC should issue a Compulsory Purchase Order is unrealistic. How could RDC use this procedure to favour one retail giant at the expense of another? Pressure from Sainsbury is being resisted because of the possible legal consequences that would, I am sure, be significant, and furthermore, it could involve a considerable sum of public money.

East Sussex County Council leader Keith Glazier said: “This unfortunate situation came about as a result of the council’s good intentions to get best value for the property as evidenced by a scheme of Sainsbury’s which seemed deliverable.

“Tesco did have a couple of opportunities to conclude a deal but failed to do so. The issue is not now with the county council but with Sainsburys and Tesco and they need to get their act together.”

Cllr Glazier also pointed out that a third of the proposed store site was sold by th British Railways Board and not the county council.