Harrogate is the last postcode in mainland Britain without a big Tesco. Not for much longer

Councillors have agreed to back a new Tesco superstore in Harrogate, the last postcode in mainland Britain without one, after rubber-stamping an application that has provoked a storm of controversy and rumbled on for nearly half a decade.

A specially arranged Harrogate Council planning committee yesterday voted 11-3 (with one abstention) in favour of the proposals for a 24-hour site on the former gasworks at New Park.

The application has turned the national spotlight on Harrogate as the last bastion against the supermarket giant.

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However, the supermarket plan has also split opinions in the town, with campaigners arguing it will bring traffic to a standstill and raising fears over the safety of the gas site.

Many small traders also claim it will have a disastrous impact on their businesses.

Following yesterday’s decision, it will now be deferred to the acting head of Planning Services for final approval and then referred to the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), which has already advised against the application and has the ability to ask the Secretary of State to call it in for a public inquiry.

Brian Dunsby, the chief executive of the Harrogate Chamber of Trade and Commerce, who spoke against the plans at yesterday’s meeting, told the Yorkshire Post he would be contacting the HSE in the coming days to urge it to call the decision in.

“I am extremely disappointed that the councillors have seen fit to overrule the express advice of the HSE,” Mr Dunsby said.

Another campaigner, 52-year-old shopkeeper Kantilal Patel who runs an off-licence and newsagent’s on Electric Avenue, next to the proposed site, said he fears the decision will put him out of business.

“For me this is disastrous. It is my livelihood,” the father-of-two said.

“The council should be protecting small businesses like me.

“If I lose the shop then I do not know what will happen.”

The packed meeting was ill-tempered, with one campaigner asked to leave the council chamber after being warned for interrupting proceedings.

A number of committee members spoke against the application including Coun Pat Marsh, who said: “They are not doing this for the benefit of the town, they are doing this for Tesco.

“When we have supermarkets we have all sorts of problems which affect residents.

“This town needs protecting from the likes of Tesco who are coming in for themselves.”

North Yorkshire County Councillor for New Park Geoff Webber said: “This is an area of high unemployment, low expectations and in desperate need of the sort of jobs this will offer.

“They will be snapped up by the local community.”

Speaking after the meeting, Tesco denied it was motivated in pushing ahead with the long-delayed application, which was revised and resubmitted last year, simply to complete its monopoly across Britain.

Corporate affairs manager Matt Magee said: “It is extremely important for us, it is a great site and we have worked hard to get here.

“We are not represented in Harrogate with a major supermarket and we feel there is an opportunity there.

“We are delighted at today’s decision.”

The superstore is expected to create more than 300 jobs and attract around 20,000 customers a week. It was recommended for approval by planning officers, subject to conditions, including a £1.5m town centre investment from the company.