New Sainsbury's delayed - because of sleeping newts
BUILDING work on Portishead's long-awaited new £15 million Sainsbury's supermarket has been held up – because of a population of great crested newts.
The supermarket giant had hoped to start building work on its new store at Serbert Way by the end of this year but this has now been put on hold until June following concerns by conservation group Natural England.
Construction work on the site cannot start until the newts, which are a protected species under European Law, are captured and removed.
They needed to be captured before the first frosts, which Sainsbury's has missed, and the newts have now gone into hibernation.
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They will now not be able to be moved until after the last frosts of next year – likely to be either March or April.
The newts will then have to be collected which will take between six and eight weeks, meaning building work is unlikely to get under way until June.
The newts will then have to be returned to their habitat, which includes a pond, once building work is completed.
It had been hoped that the store would open in the autumn of 2013.
But this now looks likely to be delayed until the spring or summer of 2014.
Sainsbury's is understood to have applied to Natural England in the summer to move the amphibians but the conservation watchdog said the application lacked insufficient information.
A spokesman for Natural England said: "We received an application in June to move great crested newts – a legally protected species – on the site of the proposed development.
"We found that there was insufficient information and a number of issues raised in the application that needed addressing before we would be able to issue a licence to move the newts.
"Having requested more information and raised a number of issues we found that a further revised proposal still raised some concerns.
"These have been outlined to the applicants and further advice offered in order to progress the case.
"We fully support sustainable growth and are doing all we can to help the applicant build a development that takes full account of the natural environment."
This is the latest glitch to hit plans for the new supermarket.
Sainsbury's was forced to submit a second application after it had its original planning permission quashed by a High Court judge.
Rival chain The Co-operative applied for a judicial review after the council granted Sainsbury's planning consent last year.
Chiefs at the Co-operative, which has a store at Wyndham Way, claimed the decision was unlawful and said the opening of a new Sainsbury's would take people out of the town centre and could force it – and other stores – out of business.
The second application – which has remained unchallenged by The Co-operative Group, was approved this spring.
Sainsbury's regional town planning manager Bruno Moore said: "We have now applied for a great crested newt licence several times but have been delayed while Natural England considers each amended application.
"To meet guidelines we need 60 clear days during the suitable season, so we cannot now start on site until next spring."