Tesco defeats Morrisons in Washington ‘store wars’ planning saga – but opponents vow to fight on

Derelict land at Armstrong industrial estate, washington, where Morrisons supermarket hope to build on the site.
Derelict land at Armstrong industrial estate, washington, where Morrisons supermarket hope to build on the site.
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OPPONENTS have vowed to battle on after Tesco won Washington’s “store wars”.

The supermarket giant secured overwhelming backing from councillors to end the near two-year saga.

Its victory, at a Sunderland City Council planning meeting, came at the expense of a rival bid by Morrisons.

Tesco, which also faced opposition from M&G Real Estate, owner of the Galleries shopping centre, which fears a drop in trade, will now press ahead with its plans.

It must wait around nine weeks before any possible appeals process is exhausted and for its plan to be signed off by the Government.

Bosses say they are confident their estimated £10m scheme will clear all hurdles and plan to start building at the Peel Retail Park site in late 2014.

But M&G Real Estate, which had threatened to scrap its plans for a £10m cinema and restaurant complex in Washington if planning permission was granted, said it will consider its position, while Morrisons added: “We are currently reviewing our options.”

Shopkeeper campaigners who supported Morrisons, warn they may try to appeal the decision themselves and said they felt “betrayed” by Sunderland City Council’s decision.

Spokesman Pauline Willis, who represents traders at Armstrong Retail Park, where Morrisons hoped to build and create 300 jobs, said: “We are totally gutted.

“We had a 626-name petition supporting Morrisons, yet that has been ignored. The council has made a huge mistake and will have to live with the consequences.

“But the fight is not over, it’s just started. We are thinking about appealing the decision ourselves because there’s no way Tesco should be allowed to build.”

Tesco expects to create around 250 full and part-time jobs at Peel, which lies next to the A1231 Sunderland Highway in the south of Washington.

Roger Wheeldon, senior development officer with Peel Holdings, which represents Tesco and which will build the store, described the decision as “good news”.

He added: “I am very relieved. There was a lot of support from the Morrisons people at the meeting, but the debate was very fair and the planning case for us overwhelming.

“It is good news for the people of Washington. A Morrisons store is being built on the edge of Washington at Birtley, and Asda and Sainsbury’s are already here. They will be well provided for.”

Morrisons said it was “deeply disappointed” with the decision.

A spokeswoman added: “It is a great shame for both the residents and businesses of Washington who have wholeheartedly shown their support for Morrisons over the last couple of years.”

Bob Mogford, M&G Real Estate’s director of investment, said: “Sunderland City Council’s approval of an out-of-town superstore application at Peel Park is a blow for Washington town centre.

“We are disappointed with the decision, which we believe runs contrary to both national and local planning policy and also fails to recognise that The Galleries has an alternative site available for further retail and leisure development in a far more sustainable location.

“We will now need to consider our next steps extremely carefully.”