A BITTER political row has broken out over rival plans for giant new supermarkets in Huddersfield.
The Conservative group on Kirklees Council – deposed from control in January – has criticised the ruling Liberal-Labour coalition over its handling of plans for a new Asda superstore.
The supermarket giant announced proposals this month for a £40m shop on the Thomas Broadbent and Sons engineering site, on Queen Street South, to open in 2011.
Rival Tesco wants to build a new superstore, on the site of Huddersfield Sports Centre on Southgate.
It intends to flatten the existing supermarket on viaduct street and build housing, offices, shops and a hotel as well as a new supermarket.
The Conservatives were supporting the Tesco proposals, which also include a new sports centre to be built on the Springwood car park site by 2011.
The overall redevelopment would be expected to finish by 2014.
Conservative councillor Ken Sims was instrumental in helping develop Tesco’s plans when he was in charge of regeneration on the council’s Cabinet, before the change in power in January.
He criticised the Liberal-Labour leadership for allowing Asda to put forward plans which could undermine Tesco’s bid.
Clr Sims believes it could have damaging repercussions for Huddersfield.
He said: “While I have no personal preference between any of these supermarkets, the Tesco deal was very good for this town and that has been thrown into jeopardy because of Labour and Liberal hesitation.
“Ultimately this will mean no new sports centre with modern facilities, and a bill for between £18m and £22m just to refurbish the existing sports centre to an acceptable standard.
“That bill in itself is down to many years of neglect by successive Labour and Liberal administrations.
“The Conservatives forged an escape route for the council, but they have failed to grasp it. They have again cost the residents of Huddersfield and the wider borough dearly.”
Conservative group leader Clr Jim Dodds said: “The new administration have dillied and dallied, failed to make decisions and shown no leadership.
“The town does not have the capacity to cope with two more large supermarkets, so if Asda are successful Tesco will almost certainly stay where they are.
“The key part of the deal with Tesco was the provision of a much needed new sports centre.”
But the Tories’ political rivals have hit back, saying it would have been “stupid and irresponsible” to have accepted what they had put in place.
Liberal councillor Christine Stanfield, Cabinet member for regeneration, said: “It was wholly appropriate for the new administration to review the Tesco proposals.
“To just take for granted what the previous administration had put in place would have been both stupid and irresponsible.
“As a new administration, we needed to be satisfied that the deal would represent value for money. As with all council matters, this was the responsible thing to do.
“We have taken the right and sensible path and, at the same time, discussions between Tesco and the council have continued to take place.
“Opportunities for such large-scale deals come along very rarely. They carry enormous potential benefits but also inherent risks, so we need to review them carefully.
“If the council does receive two applications for new supermarkets on the edge of Huddersfield town centre, there will be a robust planning process to examine them both.”
Both Tesco’s and Asda’s plans have sparked opposition from town centre traders and Huddersfield MP Barry Sheerman.