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By Chris Willmott Thursday 28 February 2013 Updated: 07/03 09:51
THE HEART of Dorridge will remain a boarded-up eyesore for at least the rest of this year - with Sainsbury's unable to say if and when it will ever be developed.
Announcing the decision to shelve development of Forest Court, Ben Littman, Regional Development Manager for Sainsbury’s, said the continued economic downturn during the drawn-out planning process, combined with a smaller store than the one the firm originally planned for, had led to Sainsbury's having to review the viability of the scheme in detail.
“This review means we are unable to include construction works in our plans for the year ahead," he added.
“We appreciate that this is not the news local people have been hoping for."
The firm has denied the decision is an underhand tactic to secure a deal for the larger store it originally wanted.
And a spokesperson could not confirm or deny it would ever be built - just that everyone was working towards the project.
The decision to put the project on hold has come under fire from the local community with complaints coming from the Dorridge and District Residents' Association (DDRA), Caroline Spelman MP and the leader of Solihull Council, Ken Meeson, along with scores of outraged residents and workers.
Coun Ken Meeson said: "This is devastating news for local people.
"This latest news shows that Sainsbury's has little respect for the local community or its prospective customers and its lame excuse about economic conditions contrasts with the positive position taken by Waitrose with its store at Knowle and the Asda store now under construction in Shirley."
Dorridge resident Mrs Spelman added: “I am just as fed up as other Dorridge residents that Sainsbury’s regeneration of Forest Court is languishing in this way, leaving an eyesore for the village and a target for vandalism.
“Dorridge residents reasonably expect Sainsbury’s to honour a moral obligation to provide the Dorridge Practice that formed part of their successful planning application.”
Meanwhile Ian Spencer from the DDRA added: "As owners of the site, Sainsbury’s are the only people who are in a position to resolve the situation, yet they seem unconcerned about their impact on our community.
"While it may be too much to ask that Sainsbury’s start construction immediately, we would like to be reassured that there will be no further delays and that there will be a firm written commitment to a start date in the very near future, certainly no further away than the very start of 2014.
"It will only be when Sainsbury’s start delivering the improvements to Dorridge that they assured us we needed that Sainsbury’s can regain the trust of the local community."
Turn to pages 10 and 11 for more letters about the decision.
* What do you think? Write to the editor at the usual addresses.
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