BLACKPOOL’S planning chief today claimed councillors had been duped by developers who have earmarked a Tesco store for a prime site in the resort.
The supermarket giant has committed to opening a new store on the site of the former iconic Yates’s Wine Lodge in Talbot Square.
But the move has been met with dismay from civic leaders who had hoped to see the location given a more prestigious use.
And now Coun David Owen, chairman of Blackpool’s planning committee, has accused developers Northhold of misleading the committee when permission was granted for the £3m scheme last May.
Coun Owen said members were “naively duped” into granting approval while fellow planning committee member Coun Tony Lee said he believed there had been a “bit of kidology”.
Coun Owen said: “When permission for the proposed development of the Yates’s site was granted by the planning committee last May, it was on the back of the applicant’s presentation which made much of the quality of the international restaurant chains who were on board – TGI Friday’s from New York and the pan-Asian, Cosmo.
“They were less than fulsome on the name of the lessee which was intended for the rest of the property. Perhaps it was hoped not too many questions would be asked.
“The committee evidently were swept along in the belief, assiduously encouraged by the agents for Northhold Group, the third operator would also be part of the Blackpool leisure offer.”
Coun Owen said with all the efforts the council had made to have Sainsbury’s as the anchor for the regeneration of the Talbot Gateway Central Business District nearby, “it was inconceivable another basic food retail outlet would be countenanced in the town’s prime entertainment spot”.
He said there was concern the council should not lose “a golden opportunity” for investment on the site. Coun Owen added: “I don’t think any of us on the planning committee last May would have been so positive about approving the scheme had it then be known a middle-of-the road grocery store was to be the unspoken monster from the deep.
“It could be said we were naively duped.”
Coun Lee agreed they had been misled.
He said: “We all looked at the plans and thought, it’s never going to be the iconic building the old Yates’s was. But we did believe we were going to get the kind of leisure offer Blackpool needs.
“I feel sure we would have said no to a Tesco there. I think there has been a bit of kidology.”
But a spokesman for Manchester-based developers Northhold denied they had misled the council.
He said: “During the planning process we worked tirelessly with the local community, the local authority and other interested parties to significantly change the proposal we first submitted and to ultimately create a building which will create a worthy and positive landmark for Blackpool.
“We are delighted to have recently secured another nationally recognised brand for the development and welcome the 20 jobs that this will create in the local community.”
Yates’s was destroyed in a blaze four years ago and it was hoped the Talbot Road site would be revived to its former glory with top restaurant chain TGI Friday’s widely reported to be interested.
However, TGI’s has since confirmed it will not be coming while Tesco Express is ready to take over one of the three units proposed.
The Tesco store will take the site of Yates’s famous rotunda – overlooking Talbot Square – with Asian eaterie Cosmo on the first floor. Tesco hopes its store will open by the start of next year.
The application approved by the committee last year was for full planning permission covering Class A1 (shops), Class A2 (offices) and Class A3 (restaurants and cafes).
A report to councillors at the time said “there is a clear indication the two larger units will be taken up for Class A3 uses by national restaurant chains.
“However, the use of the three units for any combination of either Class A1, A2 or A3 development is considered acceptable.”