Duchy set for new Waitrose scheme after legal victory
Controversial plans by Prince Charles' estate for an up-market superstore and food hall on farmland east of Truro have been given the green light by a High Court judge.
The Duchy of Cornwall, supermarket giant Waitrose, and Cornwall Council were granted planning consent for the £40 million project in October, despite howls of protest from town centre retailers and local residents.
The Truro Eastern District Centre promises 200 jobs, which also includes a European Union-funded park and ride, household waste and recycling facilities, an energy centre and hub building, a network of new roads and 97 homes, including 34 "affordable" units.
Concerns over the expansion of the city, the effect on the viability of town centre traders, including a farmer's market, prompted Truro City Council to apply for a judicial review of the decision by Cornwall Council.
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This challenged how policy was taken into account, whether the retail element of the scheme could have been accommodated in the centre and whether affordable housing should have been higher.
However, Judge Frances Patterson QC dashed protesters' hopes by rejecting each of its six grounds of challenge, in a ruling yesterday.
She said the committee's decision was based on its officers' views that the development was sustainable, would fulfil important economic, social and environmental roles and contribute to a strong, competitive local economy.
Councillor Rob Nolan, who sits on Truro City Council and is chairman of Cornwall Council's strategic planning committee, said he was "angry" at the decision, though he admitted Waitrose would be a welcome addition to the city.
He said residents would now "prepare for the devastation of the valley and the economic damage" it would do.
Mr Nolan ruled out an appeal, saying the city council would now "sit back and take" the decision.
He also revealed the legal action would cost the council around £20,000 in its own legal costs, but added that insurance had been taken out against any liability for Cornwall Council's legal bill.
The former mayor also hinted that the defeat could signal the end of a second potential judicial review against the county council in respect of planning permission awarded to Inox Group for 1,500 homes at Langarth, also on the city outskirts.
He said further insurance may prove difficult to obtain in the light of the ruling.
The scheme is a joint venture between the Duchy, which owns the land, the council, which asked the estate to get involved, Waitrose and Taste Of Cornwall, a consortium of local producers.
Elwyn Jones, chairman of Taste of Cornwall Ltd, said the city council had wasted 12 months and should step aside now and respect the wishes of the "80% of the population of Truro" that support the project.
Cornwall Council said it could still meet a deadline for the last round of EU Convergence funding, thought to be in the millions, which had been said to be in jeopardy.
In a statement it said: "It is hoped work will now be able to commence on the park and ride element of the scheme in November with an aim to open the service and help reduce road congestion to the east of the city from spring 2015."