THE multi-million pound plans to expand Bicester Village and build a new Tesco have dodged a potential delay after the Government said it was happy with them.
Secretary of State for the Department for Communities and Local Government, Eric Pickles, said the planning applications will not be called in for scrutiny.
Plans to build a new Tesco, double the size of the existing Pingle Drive store, and expand Bicester Village into the supermarket site were approved by Cherwell district councillors in January.
But because the local plan designates the site of the new Tesco for business use rather than retail, the decision was referred to the Government.
The Secretary of State said in a letter that the plans did not “conflict with national policies” and made “significant long-term impact on economic growth”.
But there will be a 12-week period, once the council has formally issued the planning permission, where anyone can make a legal challenge and seek a judicial review over the proposals.
Sainsbury’s – which vehemently opposed the Tesco application and threatened to stop work fitting out the interior of its new store in the Bicester town-centre redevelopment – said it was “disappointed”.
But a spokesman added: “We will continue to work with Cherwell District Council and seek all avenues to protect and promote the town centre to the benefit of all traders.”
He said no decision had yet been made whether Sainsbury’s would seek a judicial review.
As well as expanding Bicester Village by 28 new shops, the plans include £11m in road improvements on the A41, Oxford Road and Pingle Drive in a move that would cut chronic congestion at peak times, and will pave the way for a new business park at the site, expected to create 3,000 jobs.
Bicester Village community relations director Miranda Markham welcomed the news.
She said: “Bicester Village will now be working to conclude the planning formalities so that the vital work on road infrastructure improvements can be put in place as a priority.”
Work on the Bicester Village extension would start once Tesco had moved, which is “likely” to be late 2014.
But some of the highway work – including turning the Esso roundabout into a ‘hamburger’ to improve traffic flow, and the new access to the Tesco store and business park – would start soon.
Chris Harris, of business park developer London & Metropolitan, said: “We are confident that the new jobs and road improvements will underpin the town’s future success.