A supermarket chain was criticised by councillors after asking to extend hours for a new store at a former railway pub site.

Sainsbury's got planning permission to convert, extend and partially demolish one of the world's oldest railway inns in June last year as a campaign to save it as a community venture failed.

That decision to build a Sainsbury's Local shop on the site of the former Fighting Cocks and Platform 1 pub at Middleton St George was met with cries of "outrageous" and "disgrace" by residents at the time.

Delivery hours were limited to between 8am and 6pm under a planning condition.

Within a year, the supermarket applied for permission to change that condition to start deliveries one hour earlier at 7am, in line with opening hours.

Read more: Fury as Darlington Railway pub WILL be converted into Sainsbury's store

Councillors on Darlington Borough Council's planning committee debated whether or not to allow the alteration for the site on the corner of Sadberge Road and Darlington Road.

Committee chair Councillor Doris Jones said: "There was tremendous objection at the time."

She said they supported Sainsbury's and tried to overcome objections with the hours: "Now the objectors have gone away [Sainsbury's] come back and change it.

"That makes me very cross.

The Northern Echo: Cllr Doris Jones. Picture: Stuart Boulton.Cllr Doris Jones. Picture: Stuart Boulton.

"There are so many applications that we approve, then they come back and say 'can we amend this, can we amend that'? And it angers me because we put a lot of effort into coming to a decision in the first place."

Cllr Jack Sowerby said: "This was a condition that was introduced as a concession to residents who were very concerned about this.

"This store opened on June 30. It's only been open a very brief time. I think this is the wrong time."

Read more: See as Sainsbury's open inside Middleton St George pub near Darlington

Cllr Gerald Lee added: "There was a strong feeling that the hours had to be kept to 8.00 to try and minimise disruption.

"We agreed unanimously. There's no real reason to change it at all."

Cllr Steven Tait said: "Already they've put in a change. 

"It makes a bit of a mockery of what we do."

He said they tried to give residents protection with the hours: "Sainsbury's at the time had a very difficult job to get the application through because there was so much contention around it.

"Many people didn't want it and wanted to keep it as a historic community space and pub."

The Northern Echo: Cllr Steven Tait. Picture: Darlington Borough Council.Cllr Steven Tait. Picture: Darlington Borough Council.

Development manager Dave Coates said there was a reasonable expectation that planning decisions should be honoured, but this request was "evidence-based".

A noise assessment said the proposed hours extension would have a low noise impact.

Cllr Deborah Laing said: "It's negligible. As the ward councillor for Sadberge and Middleton St George, I would have no objection whatsoever to this application."

The shop was described as a popular "asset to the village", but the hours proposal attracted two letters of objection from residents who said the earlier deliveries would have a significant impact on them.

Environmental health and highways officers raised no objection to the plan, which would not change the number of deliveries - four to six per day. Planning officers recommended approval.

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Cllr Jones asked for a "compromise" to keep Sunday deliveries starting at 8.00: "It's the one day of the week when working people do get a bit of a lie-in.

"I think they're entitled to a day of peace and rest.

"I would like to give Sainsbury's the opportunity to show they are also considering the neighbours, as we are. But I don't think we should give them their own way straight off. I feel quite strongly about that."

Councillors voted against her suggestion to defer the decision for negotiations with Sainsbury's, and approved the plan to change the hours.


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