Friday, 25 November 2011
Will proposed Superstore traffic appeal to City Planners?
A planning appeal is currently underway at Lancaster Town Hall to consider revised plans for a major development by Countryside Estates (CE), comprising a Superstore, hotel, pub, garage and 500-space carpark at Scotforth, on fields west of the A6 and south of the Boot & Shoe.
Planning permission was granted back in May (see earlier story) for a new Booth's supermarket on an adjacent site, at the same time as CE's larger proposed complex was turned down. Now CE are back with their additional scheme. Their development proposal comprises:
- A 7,250 sqm (square metre)gross superstore (4,350 sqm net sales);
- A petrol filling station;
- A 50 bedroom 1,890 sqm hotel;
- A 400 sqm public house; and
- Associated works including landscaping, servicing arrangements, internal roads and off-site highway works.
Just to give some comparison, the new extended version of Lancaster's Sainsbury's will have 3,055 sqm retail space - about 2/3 the size of the proposed superstore, which would be by far the biggest in the Lancaster and Morecambe area.
Booths have objected to the proposal, on the grounds that South Lancaster will already be getting a new, larger Booths supermarket. On top of that, a discount retailer is expected to be taking over the old Booths premises. They argue that to be sustainable the new complex will have to take substantial trade away from the city centre.
Centros have also objected. Their proposal for a mixed retail and housing development along the Lancaster Canal Corridor is likely to be badly impacted by such a major out-of-town retail complex. Many of the people who currently visit town centre food stores make additional side trips to shop in the City Centre. The loss of this custom would hurt city centre retailers and make the Centros plans even less feasible than they are already. Which, to be fair, given that their planning application collapsed in chaos and has been mouldering ever since, is not very feasible.
From the City Council's point of view, the Canal Corridor must attract development and the released Market Building needs to remain attractive to a major retailer. The emphasis of the retail strategy is to invigorate the city centre as a retail and cultural attraction.
Lancaster University has asked for CE's appeal to be dismissed. Plans for a science park have also been approved, so a new Booths, a discount store and a science park could be expected to generate plenty of traffic on the already overburdened A6 south of the city. A wacking great superstore, hotel, pub and petrol station on top of all that is likely to lead to gridlock, especially as tailbacks form behind cars queuing to turn right.
The land itself is green and currently enjoyed in leisure by the local residents. A new supermarket, plus a superstore, hotel, pub garage and all their accompanying driveways and extensive carparks would substantially change the nature of the entire area.
Booths, Centros Miller, Mitchells and the University all see their projects being thrown into disarray by the new Countryside Estates proposal, and many established businesses are threatened by the prospect of a major out-of-town retailer drawing custom away from the traditional retail areas. Any potential residential development at Whinney Carr would also be thrown into jeopardy - no further plans that might add to A6 traffic could be likely to win approval.
Lancaster City Council (like many other councils) has a long and well-documented history of coming to grief in dealings with sharp commercial operators. It is widely speculated that the new superstore proposed by CE is likely to be a Tesco, who are reputed to be of the sharpest (see www.tescopoly.org for more info on Tesco tactics). However so far, with the united support of just about every other developer, business, organisation and residents' group in the area, the Council has had no difficulty rejecting their anti-city, anti-university, anti-greenbelt proposal. CE will doubtless keep on pushing but with such an unfeasible application they are likely to end up parked next to Centros on the naughty step.
The Appeal will be sitting through next week at Lancaster Town Hall. It has cost a lot of time and money already as you can see from the mass of expensively compiled professional reports and arguments lodged on the city council planning website.
Planning Dept ref: 11/00022/REF
See also Scotforth residents give supermarket plans the red card