On Monday, the BBC Somerset Breakfast programme ran a feature concerning the latest on Yeovil Town's plans to build a Food Store on land at Huish Park. With last week's reports suggesting the application was on rocky ground again, the BBC contacted South Somerset District Council leader Ric Pallister for his views on the plans.
The BBC indicated that the Glovers did not put anyone up for discussion on the subject on the programme, and so reran a clip of an interview from last November as a substitute. Presenter Matt Faulkner then interviewed the Council leader, with the conversation transcribed below.
MF: Now I understand the council met with the club and MP David Laws to iron out some of the issues. The club feel that you're not supporting them at all over this. Is that fair?
RP: I don't think it's fair, no. It really comes down to one fundamental basic fact - you can't buy planning permissions.
MF: Can you just say that again, as I think you cut out (due to noise on the line). I think you just said that you can't buy planning permissions? Is that right?
RP: That's correct. You can't buy planning permissions. There are huge hurdles that the club needs to overcome before we could be in a position to even look at this one in any great detail. The biggest hurdle to overcome is the fact that this application runs completely contrary to the National Planning Policy Framework.
MF: So basically you're just trying to follow procedures and that will take some time, I'd guess?
RP: Yes it will, and of course with planning because it's a legal process, we don't have any option other that to follow the process absolutely correctly on this one.
MF: What's the main stumbling block here? It's a fairly complicated issue, but is there anything to do with the fact that the club want to sell part of their land to a supermarket?
RP: No, that's all part and parcel of the thing. But the land upon which they wish the planning permission to be granted for the supermarket is indeed public open recreation space. So in selling that, it means that we've got to reprovide that somewhere else. But the biggest single problem that we start off with, is that there is a presumption now - from central government and all the way down - that we should not grant planning permission on out of town superstores if indeed there is a site close to the town centre and there is a clear demand.
MF: I guess you're not going to make yourself very popular with the Yeovil Town fans, but I suppose as you said earlier, you've just got to follow the process?
RP: Well, there's also the small issue of highways, and how we would get people in and out of that site, and where we would reprovide that public open recreation space. So we may not make ourselves popular with the fans, and I fully accept that. But this is about ensuring that actually everybody wins in the end. And we are. We didn't spend two and a quarter hours talking about nothing at the Football Club. It was really trying to tease out the issues from their side, and from our side. The Council will not thwart the ambitions of the club, if they are to get planning permission in the end. But that planning process isn't one that I'm going to be determining, as I'm not sitting on a planning committee. It has to go through the planning process. It is probable that it will end up in an appeals situation. But even if we were to grant it, there is a very strong chance that the Secretary of State would call the whole matter in for him to make a determination on it, because it breaches Government policy.
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