However the store opened in July 2010. In a letter dated 10 September 2010, the County Council revealed their conclusion that a 'Non-Statutory Public Inquiry' should be held to consider the application to have the site protected as a town green. A Public Inquiry to consider the Application was due to be held in January 2012, but campaigners dropped their case in December 2011 after a local poll on the issue was conducted.
Residents of Wimborne Minster in Dorset first heard in June 2004 that Waitrose intended to apply for permission to build on the privately owned Cricket Ground in the heart of Wimborne and within the town's Conservation Area. There was an immediate public outcry and a group – 'Keep Wimborne Town Green' (KWTG), was created to co-ordinate the considerable opposition to the plan.
Waitrose mounted two Exhibitions of their plans in the town, in December 2005 and again in November 2006. The second Exhibition revealed a supermarket with a sales area of 20,000 square feet which is 3,000 square feet smaller that the original plan and made clear that rainwater from the site would be collected, stored and released into an adjacent Chalk stream.
The dominant themes of objection to the Waitrose proposal were pollution – visual, environmental and atmospheric and the traffic congestion that would be created in the narrow streets of the town centre together with the 'clone town' effect.
Finally, on 4 Oct 2007, after 3½ years of formulating plans which it was hoped would achieve public acceptance, Waitrose made its Planning Application, these 'final' plans were on view in the town until 30 Nov. KWTG responded by distributing 6,500 leaflets throughout the town and its environs which urged people to write in protest to the District Council Planning Department; a demonstration of some 50 people was staged on the last day that the plans were on view. The District Council then announced that a public meeting would be held on Monday 28 January at which the Planning Committee would consider just this Application. At the end of November, the Applicant and the Planning Department each received a letter from the Environment Agency which outlined major objections to the proposed development vide PPS 9 - 'Biodiversity and Geological Conservation' and also the treatment of surface water in respect of its run-off into the adjacent Chalk stream which is a Priority Habitat under the UK Biodiversity Action Plan. Then, in early December, it was announced that the Meeting would be cancelled in order to give the Planning Department more time in which to process the Application.
Over 300 people attended the special meeting of the EDDC Planning Committee in September 2008; some 50 people who could not be accommodated in the hall had to listen to the proceedings on speakers in the Cafeteria! Some half of those present displayed large, bright green stickers, to indicate their opposition to the Application. Speakers had been selected by the Planning Department - 7 'against' and, in the event, 8 'for'. Each of the Councillors who voted to approve the Application 'in principle' represents a Ward away from the Parish of Wimborne Minster hence their constituents will not have to suffer the sight, described by the EDDC's Consultant Architect as 'gross and incongruous', the expected increase in traffic and increased risk of pollution and flood that the superstore would generate.
KWTG believe the Application is contrary to both local and area development plans and PPG15 and will have to be referred to the Government Office for the South West. The Government Office may then decide to 'call in' the Application which would lead to a Public Inquiry. KWTG very much wishes a Public Inquiry to be held so that there can be a dispassionate examination of the arguments for and against this development. The KWTG campaign group are encouraging people to write to the Government Office and demand a public inquiry.
At a special meeting of the East Dorset District Council (EDDC) Planning Committee held on Monday 29 September 2008, the Committee voted 8 to 2 to 'approve in principle' the Application despite a 'recommendation to refuse' from the Head of Planning; this approval was confirmed at a meeting of the Planning Committee on 6 January 2009 and 'rubber-stamped' by the full Council on 12 January. Because the Application is contrary to both local and area development plans and to PPG15, it was referred on 16 January to the 'Planning Team' at the 'Government Office for the South West'. In preparation, KWTG had provided this Office with a 9 page Report that set out the history of the proposed development and concluded thus:
'That the disadvantages of this proposal outweigh its advantages is abundantly clear. It is instructive that the Applicant has had to formulate 7 designs in an attempt to overcome the constraints of the proposed site. This demonstrates the total unsuitability of the site and supports the view of very many Wimborne Minster residents that that such a superstore development in the proposed location is wholly undesirable.'
The Secretary of State's decision not to intervene was received surprisingly quickly on 29 January hence the ability to determine this planning application remains with the East Dorset District Council. Nevertheless, because significant aspects of the Application are contrary to some provisions of the ODPM Circular 05/2005, which the Secretary of State is required to enforce, KWTG has contested this decision. Essentially, however, the only course now left to those who oppose this superstore development is to seek a Judicial Review of the Planning Committee's decision. KWTG has been very well assisted for the past year by the Environmental Law Foundation which has now undertaken to provide a 'Counsel's opinion' on the strength of the KWTG case which rests on five contentions, two of which are supported by 'case law'. Once Counsel's opinion is received, the decision as to whether to seek Judicial Review will be made.