St Helens MP Warns Morrisons Over Stadium Opposition

Morrisons St HelensSt Helens MP Dave Watts has warned supermarket chain Morrisons that its local business interests could be damaged if it does not drop objections to a planning application which includes proposals for a new Saints stadium.

Watts held talks with Morrisons in Bradford where he urged the firm's property director, Roger Owen to drop their opposition for plans to build a Tesco Extra supermarket alongside a new Saints stadium at the former United Glass site, Peasley Cross.

But the MP described the outcome of the talks as "negative", saying: "I got the impression that Morrisons did not fully understand the level of support that the application had from the whole of the St Helens community.

"I warned Morrisons that their present stand risked alienating the entire St Helens community, damaging their long term business interests in the town."

Watts and fellow St Helens Labour MP Shaun Woodward, who is a cabinet minister, are hopeful of swiftly arranging talks with Morrisons' chief executive.

Asked to comment on the meeting with Mr Watts, a spokesperson for the supermarket chain said: "Morrisons Group property director, Roger Owen met with Mr Watts MP to discuss the proposed new Saints rugby stadium and associated development.

"Mr Owen re-iterated the company's continuing concerns about the retail proposals, specifically the consistent application of retail planning policy."

Some Saints supporters have already said they will boycott the store's supermarkets at Baxters Lane, Sutton and Boundary Road, St Helens, because of the firm's stance on the UG planning application.

Meanwhile, Watts, has also held "positive" talks with representatives of a Saints fans pressure group, who in recent weeks have protested over what they see as delays in the stadium proposals progressing through the planning process.

He met with supporters at Knowsley Road on Friday following Saints' win over Harlequins. According to the MP, he explained to fans that any attempt to shortcut the planning process could cause further delays if objectors could prove the applications had not followed rules and regulations.

He said funding for the new stadium would be made up of contributions from Saints, the North West Regional Development Agency, Tesco and St Helens Council.

But the MP added these funds depend on all three interlinked planning applications - housing at Saints' Knowsley Road ground, the current Chalon Way Tesco being transformed for shops, and the stadium/Tesco development - being granted planning permission.

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