Police had to be called in halfway through a planning committee meeting after far-right protesters became “abusive”.
Members of the English Defence League were at the meeting of Chelmsford Council’s planning committee and are said to have caused a disturbance. The incident happened shortly after councillors agreed to plans for a Waitrose supermarket, along with 39 apartments, to be built on Royal Mail’s sorting office site.
Members of the EDL are against the relocation of the Islamic Community Centre, which has been on the site for 20 years. Although not contained within Waitrose’s plans, a separate proposal has been made by Muslim Shia Ithna Asheri Jamaat of Essex to reconstruct a four-storey centre at the rear of the site.
A spokesman for Essex Police said: “We were called to assist at the planning committee hearing after a disturbance was reported involving EDL members present in the room. We escorted them out of the meeting but no arrests were made as it was determined no offences had occurred.”
Council leader Roy Whitehead said discussions are set to take place about how to avoid a similar incident in the future.
Mr Whitehead said: “Myself and the council’s chief executive are going to meet up with the local police superintendent to discuss how matters like this can be dealt with. The plans themselves for Waitrose are great and I have been working with the supermarket for the past seven years to get it back into the city after it left 14 years ago.”
A spokesman for the supermarket said the incident involving EDL members was “unsavoury”.
However, development surveyor Grant Hobday said the company is pleased the council has given its thumbs-up to the plans. Mr Hobday said: “We will now seek to finalise our plans and once Royal Mail has achieved its ambition to relocate, we hope to start on site in spring 2014 and open in spring 2015.”
About 180 jobs will be created by the supermarket.