A DECISION enabling two supermarkets to be built on land next to Asda has been upheld — despite warnings it will damage local shops and businesses.

Finance cabinet member Cllr Stuart Hutchinson used his delegated powers to vary the option on the land at St George's Park, which developer South Coast Leisure (SCL) has agreed to buy from the council for £350,000.

SCL, which owns the adjacent Newport Football Club site, told the County Press it intends to submit a planning application in the spring for a trade and retail park including one Aldi or Lidl type discount supermarket.

The council's scrutiny committee had called for a rethink, urging Cllr Hutchinson to suspend the decision until any planning application was determined and the Newport Place Plan, aimed at regenerating the town, was completed.

Labour Cllr Geoff Brodie, who led the call in challenging the decision, raised concerns about the impact on independent shops and warned the £350,000 would be seen as a bribe if the council varied the option — to include supermarkets as well as non-food retail and light industrial use — before a planning application was considered.

But Cllr Hutchinson said at yesterday's (Thursday) cabinet meeting he had not changed his mind.

He said the planning process was a lengthy one, and he wanted to secure the income for council coffers as quickly as possible.

Cllr Hutchinson said he did not want to place the applicant in the 'invidious position' of preparing a complex and costly planning application, which would then hang on a delegated decision to vary the option.

No evidence had been presented to show a new supermarket would damage other shops and businesses, he said.

"I recognise the fears expressed by some members of the scrutiny committee but believe the proper place for their concerns is during the planning process," he added.

Cllr Brodie said the episode highlighted the ineffectiveness of the cabinet and scrutiny system.

"Cabinet has consistently ignored adverse scrutiny recommendations over the 12 years I have been a member, so I am am far from surprised at Cllr Hutchinson's remarks. In this case they have put the needs of the developer over the needs of the county town and the wishes of local people," he said.