PLANS for a new supermarket between Ruabon and Johnstown have been given the green light after a knife-edge vote.
But the bid by Manchester-based Capital & Centric for a store at the former Griflex factory on the Vauxhall Industrial Estate was only passed by the narrowest of margins last night.
The decision to grant or refuse was evenly split, with only a casting vote by Wrexham Council planning committee chairman Cllr Mike Morris breaking the deadlock.
Capital & Centric director Adam Higgins said 93 per cent of local people said they wanted a “decent modern supermarket in the area where they live”.
He said even with the new Tesco in Cefn Mawr 75 per cent of people still had to drive to Wrexham for their weekly shop.
The company had received no objections from local shopkeepers, he said, adding: “Two hundred and fifty new jobs will be created as part of these proposals. It will be a huge boost for the local economy.”
But not everyone agreed. Ponciau Cllr Paul Pemberton said there were already two “perfectly good” supermarkets in Johnstown and Rhos. He said local businesses had been severely hit in Cefn Mawr after Tesco opened there.
He feared for specialist shops such as hardware stores and butchers in Rhos village centre.
“If we approve this, this will be a death knell. We will be closing the doors completely on Rhos as a shopping centre,” he said.
He proposed refusing the application because of the effect it would have on the district shopping centre of Rhos. He also said there was unproven need for it and Wrexham was already over-saturated with supermarkets.
Minera councillor David Kelly told councillors: “I honestly wonder where this will end. This is industrial land...not to be used at the beck and behest of anyone who wants to move on there.”
Lead member for planning, Cllr Mark Pritchard told the committee allowing a supermarket on designated industrial “employment land” was “setting a precedent” that members might not want to set.
Planning control manager David Williams said the land was not “set aside” for industrial use as such. It was simply currently in industrial use but lying vacant.
He said there was a distinction to be made between people’s main weekly shopping requirements and “top-up” shopping at specialist stores.
“These don’t necessarily need to be in conflict,” he said. “The supermarkets will obviously be affected, but it is not the role of planning to interfere with competition between supermarkets.”
Neighbouring dairy farmer Keith Thompson told the committee he had “grave concerns” about the access as outlined.
Traffic lights were suggested at the junction where the supermarket was to be built but, he said, a mini-roundabout would be much safer. Cllr Pritchard said this was also his main concern.
The committee agreed to amend the outline application to include the possibility of a roundabout. Mr Williams said it would be looked at as part of the more detailed application to follow.
Speaking after the meeting, Johnstown Cllr David Bithell said despite traffic concerns he welcomed the decision.
“These are difficult financial times and this is a much needed job boost both in the construction industry and the store itself.”