Supermarket giant is the latest bidder to pull out of Gordon Brown's initiative, after proposals were opposed by local planners

Supermarket Tesco has withdrawn its bid to build one of the Gordon Brown’s eco-towns on the Hanley Grange site near Cambridge.

The bid, to build a 6,500-home eco-town, was unanimously opposed by local planning authorities, which said growth should instead be focused on other expansion areas planned around Cambridge and the 10,000-home public private joint venture Northstowe.


Tesco is the latest of the 15 shortlisted organisations to withdraw from the eco-town process following the government announcement in May. Currently just nine of the original 15 are still in the process, although two newer bids have also come in.

A spokesperson for Jarrow Investments, the Tesco-backed company which was promoting the scheme, today confirmed it was “withdrawing from the eco-town bidding process”.

The spokesperson said it would continue to pursue possibilities for development on the site, but would do so through the normal planning process, specifically the review of the East of England Regional Spatial Strategy which has just commenced.

In a statement the firm said: “We believe that a genuinely sustainable community stands the best chance of being delivered successfully if a broad range of stakeholders in the region feel that they have been fully engaged in the process leading up to a decision. We believe this is most likely to be achieved through a review of the Regional Spatial Strategy.”

The spokesperson said it was too early to say whether any future plans would be based on the current eco-town proposal.

There had been widespread speculation that Tesco would withdraw from the process since the Wellcome Trust, which owned a third of the site of the proposed town, announced last month it no longer supported the development.

Local housing growth vehicle Cambridgeshire Horizons yesterday put out a release jointly with Huntingdonshire council saying a 5,000-home urban extension to St Neots was a viable alternative to the Hanley Grange eco-town.

The government also confirmed last month it was delaying the selection of the winning bidders until next spring, casting more doubt over the programme, which was originally supposed to be for 10 eco-towns. Sources now suggest that only two or three are likely to be selected by the government to go forward.

Alex Plant, chief executive of Cambridgeshire Horizons, said: "We have consistently objected to the eco-towns process, arguing instead that new developments beyond those already planned should come forward through the review of the Regional Spatial Strategy (RSS).

“I am delighted that Tesco have listened to those concerns and withdrawn Hanley Grange from the eco-towns process. They will of course still be able to present any proposals through the proper planning processes."

A Communities department spokesman said: "The whole point of developing a long list of potential locations was to get down to a shorter final list, and we remain committed to announcing this final shortlist of up to ten potential locations early in the New Year."

He said there remained a serious shortage of housing in the Cambridge area with almost 10,000 families on the waiting list for affordable housing.

“We have been clear that only proposals of the highest standards stand a chance of becoming an eco town. The promoters have decided they need more time to develop their proposal and we would expect it to be considered as part of the planned review of the Regional Spatial Strategy.”