COUNCILLORS have given their backing to a plan for a new Asda superstore and business units on the edge of Blandford after rejecting planning officers' advice to turn it down.
Members of North Dorset District Council's development management committee agreed unanimously that they were minded to approve the application, subject to the drawing up of conditions that will come back to their next meeting on 23rd April.
The proposal includes a retail superstore, petrol station, cafe and business units on land between the bypass and Shaftesbury Lane on the northern edge of the town.
The outline application sought permission for the access and layout on 2.1 hectares of the 3.2 hectare site that had been designated for employment use.
Council officers had recommended refusal on the grounds of the development's impact on the town centre and because the site was primarily intended for industrial use.
But the public gallery was filled with people who attended the meeting on Tuesday to support the application. And members heard that there was widespread support for it throughout the town including Blandford Forum Town Council.
Councillor Jackie Stayt, representing the Hilltop ward on the town council, said: "We have been approached by an overwhelming number of members of the public in favour.
"People in my ward are dramatically poorly served from the point of view of infrastructure, shopping and public transport, and this is an ideal solution which offers a local bus service into town."
The proposal was first put forward last year by Asda and DPP Developmemts, shortly before approval was granted for an extension to Tesco at Stour Park on the opposite site of town, and which has yet to be built.
Several people spoke in favour at the meeting including David Smith, who welcomed its jobs, Peter Newell who argued that it brought competition that would be good for the town centre, Gillian Drummond who said ordinary housewives would welcome Asda, and Joanna Paver who reported that an internet poll at Blandford Camp showed support.
There was some dissention from speakers who feared the end of independent shops in the town and the impact on village and farm shops farther afield.
Councillor David Milsted said he sympathised with planning officers, who had to recommend against the loss of employment land "as long as the pointy heads in Whitehall refuse to consider retail as employment use".
He said: "Officers have to go along with it but members are allowed to kick the can from time to time against the suggestion that a warehouse employing four people is employment but a supermarket employing hundreds is not."