Waitrose re-enters race to open in Oakham

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Waitrose has revealed it is hoping to build a store in Oakham after a previous attempt to come to the town fell through.

Waitrose hopes to build a 21,000 sq ft supermarket on the site currently occupied by Tim Norton Motor Services in Long Row, Oakham.

It had intended to build a store on the former Rutland County College site in Barleythorpe Road but Tresham College, which owned the site, decided to sell to rival chain Sainsbury’s instead.

Sainsbury’s has submitted a planning application for a 27,000 sq ft store on the college site. Waitrose’s intentions came to light in letters objecting to that application.

Lindum Group, which previously acted on behalf of Waitrose when it was looking to buy the college site, and planning consultancy firm Firstplan, have both submitted letters stating that the Tim Norton site is a better place for a supermarket.

Planning policies favour a supermarket closer to the town centre so developers have to carry out a sequential test to explain the reasons behind ruling out certain sites.

The letter of objection from Lindum Group director Chris Callaghan said it was “our intention to submit an application for a 21,000 sq ft (nett) store that is suitable, viable, deliverable and in a sequentially preferable location”.

Mr Callaghan declined to comment on the plans this week.

And Firstplan, which submitted its letter on behalf of Waitrose, says the Tim Norton site is “available, suitable, from a highway perspective as well and viable for a foodstore development, and can be brought forward and delivered in the short to medium term”.

It also states a planning application will be submitted to the council in “the near future”.

Sainsbury’s application says that it ruled out the Tim Norton site because it was 50 per cent smaller than the college site and that a planning application had previously been refused for a foodstore. The refusal was upheld on appeal because of highways issues.

Sainsbury’s had an application refused for a bigger store on land near the bypass in March last year. Councillors said there were more suitable sites for a supermarket and that the land was earmarked for employment use.

Tim Norton, who owns the garage, said: “We have been approached but at this time we are unable to secure an alternative site.”

Mr Norton has also submitted a letter of objection to the Sainsbury’s plan, which says: “I am currently in advanced negotiations to sell this site to a developer and supermarket operator. It is their intent to submit a formal planning application for a retail store in this location in the near future.”

A Waitrose spokesman said the firm had a long standing ambition to open in Oakham but would not comment further.