TESCO plans to have its 24-hour Harrogate superstore open by Christmas 2013, after councillors granted permission for the controversial development.
The town gave up its status as the only postcode area in mainland Britain without a major Tesco store on Tuesday, as members voted by 11 to 3 - with one abstention - to approve the 7,345m sq development at the junction of Skipton Road and Ripon Road.
The proposals will now sit with the council for three weeks, in case the Secretary of State wants to intervene, before being formally passed.
Supporters of the development say it will create 360 jobs, regenerate the area and provide a much-needed amenity, but objectors retain serious concerns over the impact on nearby businesses and residents, and say the site is potentially dangerous.
Matthew Magee, from Tesco, said: “We’re very pleased with the decision from the committee.
“I think it was good to see, coming out of the debate, the popularity of the scheme, the thoroughness of the officer’s report and that the store is needed in this part of Harrogate.
“We’re providing a supermarket that will be very popular.”
He denied there was any satisfaction in securing a superstore in every postcode, saying: “That’s never been an issue for us, genuinely. We are represented in Harrogate with a superstore and we want to be, but the HG postcode isn’t and hasn’t been an issue for us.”
Mr Magee also countered claims that Tesco was only interested in itself, rather than in benefiting Harrogate. “I disagree that it’s mutually exclusive,” Mr Magee said, adding that the company had “spent a lot of time getting the application right”.
He added that he did not foresee Tesco applying for changes to restrictions on deliveries, but that if a noise report demonstrated no adverse effect on local residents, it should in theory be allowed to appeal.
All three elected members representing the ward backed the proposals, with County Coun Geoff Webber urging councillors to approve the store. “This is an area of high unemployment, low expectations and a lot of single mums,” he told Tuesday’s meeting.
“It’s an area in desperate need of the sort of jobs that Tesco is going to offer.”
But Kantilal Patel, who has run the Number One Shop on Electric Avenue for four years, told the Advertiser that he and other business owners close to the site were worried about losing their livelihoods.
“It’s very bad, there’s a very sour feeling here at the moment,” he said.
“I might have to close the business because of Tesco.”
Tuesday’s special planning committee meeting was a heated affair, with one objector walking out after twice interrupting proceedings from the gallery.
Speeches in opposition to the plans were loudly applauded, while Coun Webber’s endorsement of the proposals also attracted some support.
Councillors raised concerns about traffic congestion, road safety, gas safety - due to the site history - and the impact on nearby residents, with Coun Pat Marsh saying: “I think this town needs protecting from the likes of Tesco.”
In his speech, Bob Jones, who lives half-a-mile from the site, said the impact on traffic would be “frightening”. “There will be a fight for market share and the battlegrounds will be the Skipton Road, Wetherby Road and the Ripon Road,” he said, adding that the store was “only in Tesco’s interest, not the town’s”.
Tesco says the store, which will draw around 20,000 customers a week and receive between 10 and 12 HGV deliveries a day, should be open by Christmas 2013.