PLANS to expand Bicester Village and its Tesco superstore were approved yesterday after councillors hailed its bid to ease traffic congestion in the area.
Cherwell District Council’s planning committee unanimously approved two planning applications for the Pingle Drive shopping complex.
They said the plan to move Tesco and expand Bicester Village in its place will lead to much-needed road improvements.
But Sainsbury’s warned the plans threatened the future of its planned store in the town centre.
The scheme will see a Tesco built on a field opposite Bicester Village that would be double the size of its superstore next to the outlet shopping park. It would feature a petrol station and 600 parking spaces on the site, on the south of the A41.
The current Tesco would then be demolished to make way for 28 new shops in a move that would expand Bicester Village by 23.8 per cent.
Road changes include traffic lights at the main A41 Bicester Village roundabout, two lanes in and out of the complex and widening Pingle Drive.
The committee said the road improvements will pave the way for a new business park at the site, to create 3,000 jobs.
Bicester Village development director Chris Harris said the changes will “get rid of all the Tesco traffic” and the work would provide a 600-space park-and-ride.
He said: “Our proposals form an important part of providing both the road infrastructure and services in terms of additional places for people to shop.
“But what is most exciting for me is the ability to provide high quality employment opportunities within Bicester.”
Sainsbury’s chief financial officer John Rogers said: “It is quite disappointing to be sitting here defending the investment we have made in the town centre.”
He said it was “staggering” that planning officer Rebecca Horley backed the scheme and stated “it is not going to have an impact on the town centre”.
Her reports recommended councillors back both schemes.
Mr Rogers said approval would mean trust between the firm and the council – a partner in the town centre redevelopment – will have “severely broken down”.
Work began on the town centre store a year ago.
Oxford’s Westgate Centre also objected, saying the city should be a “primary centre” in Oxfordshire.
Mr Rogers said: “It would be very difficult if the proposal was accepted to continue with the fit out of our store.”
But Tesco corporate affairs manager Simon Petar said: “Our plans have significant widespread local support.”
And Charles Shouler, chairman of Bicester Town Council’s traffic advisory committee, said the plans were a “once in a lifetime opportunity” to solve the traffic problems.
Both plans will be referred to the Government as they are a departure from council policies on future development.
Paul Vickery, planning consultant for Sainsbury’s, said: “We are disappointed and are going to consider our options.”
Mr Petar said Tesco wanted to begin work as soon as possible but could not give timescales. No shop names have been announced for the new Bicester Village units.