THE way is clear for Sainsbury's to open a huge new store on York's outskirts after the final planning obstacle was removed.

Secretary of State Eric Pickles has decided not to order a public inquiry into City of York Council's controversial decision to grant permission for the 60,000 ft supermarket on the current site of B&Q in Hull Road.

However, the two retail giants have still not revealed when the DIY store will close to make way for the food outlet.

A spokesman for Sainsbury's said: "We are pleased that the Secretary of State has chosen not to call in our planning application to convert the B&Q unit on Hull Road into a Sainsbury's foodstore.

"We are continuing to discuss the site with B&Q and we will keep the community up to date as and when we know more."

A B&Q spokesman said: "We welcome the planning approval for the new Sainsbury’s store from City of York Council. We remain in discussions regarding other contractual matters and need to complete these before we are able to determine a closure date."

A leading opponent of the plans, Graham Kennedy, of the nearby Inner Space filling station on Hull Road, said he was 'disappointed but not surprised' by the decision not to call in the plans for an inquiry.

York planners gave the go-ahead in January for the conversion of the B&Q store into a supermarket, despite more than 2,000 objections from local residents and traders. Mr Kennedy warned there would be a disastrous effect on traffic in Hull Road, which was already regularly jammed.

Johnny Hayes, of Bishopthorpe Road Traders Association, also spoke against the scheme, saying they joined shops on Hull Road, Badger Hill and Osbaldwick in opposing the plans and fearing for their own businesses if the new Sainsbury’s opened.

But despite the objections, councillors said the law restricted their considerations to planning matters, and the supermarket’s town planning manager, Sue Smales, said research showed supermarkets competed against other supermarkets, rather than smaller independent shops.

York Press:
Sue Smales, the town planning manager for Sainsbury, with a view of the planned new store

She said that, while other supermarket chains were seeing shrinking business and superstore closures because of changing shopping habits, the proposed Hull Road store was small enough to avoid those threats.

The proposals include external alterations including the reconfiguration of the shop front and canopy, the installation of a new customer cafe, associated toilets and ATMs, the removal of the existing garden centre and builders yard and the reconfiguration of the site access and customer car park.