Sainsbury’s accused of ‘pushing independents out’ after go-ahead for store in St Albans pub garden

Three Hammers

Three Hammers - Credit: Archant

Last orders have been called on a historic pub’s beer garden as Sainsbury’s has successfully overturned a rejected scheme for a £2.5 million store on a valued green space.

Jenny Kaur

Jenny Kaur - Credit: Archant

The supermarket giant has won an appeal to build a convenience stores next to Grade II listed Three Hammers Pub in Watford Road, Chiswell Green - despite fierce local opposition and the fact it has a major supermarket just two miles drive away.

Last Wednesday’s (1) approval by planning inspector Christa Masters has been criticised by local councillors and independent retailers who warn it will have a negative impact on their trade, and turn the area into a ‘concrete jungle’.

It was the second time Sainsbury’s, through developer Chiswell Maine, had appealed against St Albans district council.

Early last year it was accused of ruthlessly pushing plans to build its store next to the pub after it refused to wait for a council decision on the scheme - despite submitting revised plans - and suddenly appealed on the grounds of non-determination of the bid within the statutory timeframe.

Garden at the Three Hammers

Garden at the Three Hammers - Credit: Archant

However the firm was refused permission to build, with an inspector saying any such building would result in ‘significant noise’ for two neighbouring homes.

But late last year Sainsbury’s resubmitted an application to build the store, which it claimed was ‘materially and significantly amended’.

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And yet again, the applicants decided to go to appeal against the council’s failure to decide within the prescribed timeframe, shortly after the statutory period of eight weeks ended.

The council indicated it would have refused the revised application, but in light of the ruling on the first appeal by the Planning Inspectorate, councillors had limited grounds for refusal.

Ms Masters granted permission for a 335 sq m gross convenience store, saying that as some acoustic fencing and other mitigation measures were included in the scheme, there would be no material harm in terms of noise and disturbance.

Although concerns had been expressed about the loss of a “locally popular green space” the “council has raised no objection in relation to this issue”.

Her overturning of the rejected scheme has been criticised by Jenny Kaur, managing director of Bhaker House, a nearby cafe in Watford Road. She said: “There was huge community spirit over this, and locals will be really upset.

“Sainsbury’s are pushing the independents out. I’m annoyed that Chiswell Green will turn into a concrete jungle - I think the same will happen at Butterfly World, that it will be developed. It isn’t fair on local people, and it is so sad for the pub, as it will change what it looks like. Chiswell Green used to be like a farm, but it isn’t any more.”

St Stephen parish council chairman Cllr Mick Freeman added: “People are upset as there was no public hearing into it, the appeal just had written representations, so the inspector didn’t hear all the comments from the first one.

“This is the wrong place for a store, and no one wants it there. Local businesses are going to suffer.”

St Stephen ward councillor Brian Gibbard said: “Unfortunately the garden is not in the Green Belt. The decision is disappointing to say the least.”

The council’s portfolio holder for planning, Cllr Julian Daly, did not respond to the Herts Advertiser about the overturning at the time of going to press, but a spokesman for the authority said: “We are disappointed with the outcome.

“However, applicants have the opportunity to appeal if the local planning body does not make a decision within set time scales [but] in this case, the decision was based on planning considerations, not on non-determination within [the timeframe].”