IT WAS one of the most controversial planning battles in recent times.

A six-year struggle that split a market town and even drew in TV star Amanda Holden to take sides.

Sainsbury’s fought and ultimately lost its campaign to open a new supermarket in Bishop’s Waltham.

Part of the town welcomed the news that a supermarket would be on their doorsteps. They argued the town with a population of 6,000 was growing and would need the extra shop space.

But others said it would jeopardise the future of the High Street which still boasts independently-owned shops, including a butcher and a fishmonger.

Ms Holden backed its stance and spoke against the plans when she returned to the village for the annual carnival.

The anti-Sainsbury’s people formed the Bishop’s Waltham Action Group, sparking the pro-Sainsbury faction to form the Alternative View. They argued it would provide hundreds of jobs as well as a new doctors’ surgery.

But in the end, amid all the shouting, it was the revolution in retailing with the rise of the Germans, such as Lidl and Aldi, and internet shopping that put paid to Sainsbury’s plans.

The company conceded defeat in June and put the site at Abbey Mill on the market.

It is being marketed by Savills, for an undisclosed multi-million pound sum.

The freehold includes a former 19th century mill building and pond and a large open space.

The site has planning permission for a 35,000 sq ft (sales area) food store, doctors' surgery and three flats.

Philip Brannon, of Southampton-based Savills, said: “We are anticipating a good deal of interest from owners, occupiers and developers in this prime development site, which has previously had a residential planning permission.

“We expect to receive a number of subject to planning offers for alternative uses including residential use,” said Mr Brannon.

The site is offered for sale by informal tender, with a closing date for offers of 1pm on Thursday, October 22.

Bishop’s Waltham’s population is expected to grow significantly over the next 20 years, with 500 homes set to be built by 2031.