RESIDENTS breathed a sigh of relief tonight as councillors delayed a decision on a controversial supermarket while the proposal is scrutinised further.

More than 100 vocal residents packed the council chambers at the Town Hall this evening to watch the planning committee debate the issues surrounding the proposed development by Tesco to build a 5,523sq ft supermarket and 253 homes in Larkshall Road, Highams Park.

But before all committee members could voice their opinions on the proposal, Valley ward's Conservative councillor Alan Siggers put forward the motion to defer the decision while more detailed information is given on the potential impact the development could have on traffic and businesses in the area.

The motion was seconded by Conservative counillor Edwin Northover, who represents Larkswood ward, and the committee voted in favour of deferring, by a majority of five votes to three.

The outcome was declared a partial victory by many of Highams Park's residents groups who spoke at the meeting to oppose the scale of the development, which they said would have a detrimental effect on the neighbourhood's roads, schools, shops and character.

Chairman of the Highams Park Forum, Roger Torode, said after the meeting: “At least it hasn't been accepted.

"We want the opportunity to pursue Tesco and to put forward a smaller store, which is what most people want.”

During the meeting, council officers outlined the reasons for recommending the development to go ahead including that it satisfied a “demonstrable need” for a large food store in the area and stating that it was “not expected” to lead to small shops closing.

Labour councillor Midge Broadly, who represents Markhouse ward, who also voted to defer a decision, questioned the impact the housing development would have on schools.

She said: “It is all very well getting money (from Tesco) for schools, but where are we going to find these places?

"If there is difficulty for Tesco to find a place to build a store, where are we going to build a school? That is an area we need more information on.”

Cllr Siggers said: “This is the biggest development we have had to deal with in a long time, but I don't feel I am able to reach an informed decision on a development of this scale given this report.”