With the Leader of the Council Kevin Madge, along with Sainsburys screeching from the council website it might be worth looking a little closer at the reasons for the Llandeilo/Cross Hands call-in.
Firstly, the Council were obligated to refer the matter themselves to the Welsh Government under the 'Shopping directive' because, when considered with other eligible proposals in the area the combined floorspace exceeded 20,000sq m. Kev seems to have forgotten this.
Secondary to this were the individual requests, notably from the Plaid MP and AM against whom Kev used the taxpayer funded council website to lose the plot. When 'call-ins' are considered, it is not whether permissions should be granted or not, but who should be making the decisions which is at issue. The "Welsh government policy is to interfere with the responsibilites of local planning authorities only when it is necessary to do so"; in this case it was the cumulative impact of the two stores which was identified as the main issues raised and warranted "taking the application out of the hands of Carmarthenshire County Council".
So, putting aside local views on the merits or otherwise of the two stores, the Welsh Government were of the view that Carmarthenshire Council were not capable of making the decision, either through a poor assessment of the impact or through lack of objectivity, take your pick.
The WG assessment states that Nathaniel Lichfield Partnership identified that if the two stores operated at the full market rate, this would produce a loss of £36.15m to other retailers in the area, based on that figure, NLP said that the two stores could not be supported.
Sainsburys then came forward to the Council and promised to operate at only 80% average turnover. So, with the help of Sainsburys, the figures were then re-jigged by the Council who came up with a much reduced and slightly more palatable impact of £5.89m. The Council, using Sainsburys figures, concluded that "there is sufficient commercial case within the County to make both stores viable".
Anyone with half a brain would be somewhat sceptical that Sainsburys would actively seek to reduce their turnover by 20%, how would they do it? tell customers to go away, 'we've sold quite enough for one day'? It seems the WG is equally sceptical;
"however it is not clear from either officer report whether, or how, that assumption could be assured by the Council either with Sainsburys as the operator or any subsequent operator. Given that the council has to a large extent predicted the acceptability of these two proposals operating together on the basis of a reduced turnover we consider this to be a significant omission in the assessment of the proposals..."
So it would appear that after commissioning a myriad of expensive retail assessments from NLP, White Young Green and Savils, the most influential voice in County Hall was Sainsburys. How unsurprising.
As the two applications were recommended for approval at officer level but were referred to the Planning Committee for the rubber stamp, it is the Committee which is referred to in the Call-in letter, dated the 20th July;
"In our view there is insufficient information in these respects [cumulative impact] to show that all policy considerations have been fully addressed by Carmarthenshire County Council's Planning Committee in reaching its decision on these applications"