|Scotforth residents protesting at new supermarket plans on Saturday.|
Photo courtesy Councillor Emily Heath
Scotforth residents are "seeing red" over proposals to build two huge supermarkets and staged a demonstration outside Booths on Saturday.
Dressed in red, the protestors, who included elderly people, parents with young children, and residents of streets which will be badly affected by extra traffic if the supermarket plans go ahead, say they are alarmed by the proposals.
The proposals will be considered by Lancaster City Council’s planning committee within the next couple of months.
One of the proposed supermarkets would be Booths, with the possibility of another supermarket operator taking over the existing Booths store in Scotforth.
The other, much larger, superstore is proposed by a developer called Commercial Estates Projects for the fields further south. They have refused to say which company will operate the store, but residents believe that it will be Tesco or Asda because they usually able to make the highest bids. Over one third of the retail space will be for ‘comparison goods’.
“If these proposals are approved, we could soon have three supermarkets in Scotforth, which together would add up to nine times the retail space of the current Booths store," says
Green Party Councillor Emily Heath, who represents Scotforth West ward. "Lawson’s Bridge would become a large out-of-town retail park which would suck trade away from the City Centre and local shops.
"I’m also very concerned about the severe traffic congestion which would be generated," she added. "The developers’ traffic assessments predict that by 2019 the afternoon 'rush hour' will be more like three hours long, with queues of 235 vehicles at the Boot & Shoe crossroads heading north.
"That would stretch almost as far as the entrance to the University! Buses will get stuck in these huge traffic jams, as well as cars and commercial vehicles. It will be chaos.”
Lancaster University is not opposing the plan for a new Booths, but in a response to the planning application it says it is concerned that the Traffic Assessment for the plan claims the proposed development will not have any material adverse effect on the surrounding highway authority.
"I would consider that statement to be unrealistic and misleading," noted Mark Swindlehurst, the Univerity's Director of Facilities in a letter to the City Council back in June last year. "The provision of a car park with a greater number of parking spaces than at the present Booths site on Hala Road will lead to increased car journeys being made in connection with Booths (Lancaster) as the local customer base increases.
"Furthermore, a new signalised junction on the A6 at the site entrance will certainly have an adverse effect on A6 traffic flows. This will affect the University's bus services and other commuters travelling between the University and the city centre along the A6."
Challenging the Council to reveal exactly when the Assessment was undertaken (since, if it was during University vacation, this would skew traffic estimates), the University also argues the it fails to take into account the impact its own Science Park, which has already been given planning permission, will have on traffic.
"The TA fails to mention the approved Bailrigg Science Park or any future development
possibilities at the University. The combined traffic implications of these will be significant and the TA has not considered these at all in the proposed 2015 traffic flow forecast for the A6 outside the proposed site, which again is unrealistic and misleading."
Booths claims the response to its proposals have been encouraging. In covering letter to a report on its Public Consultation, conducted in February last year, the supermarket's agents claim that out of a total of 429 replies, 85% were in support of the proposal - but even many of its supporters expressed concern at increases to traffic. Over 15,000 questionnaires were distributed within the Lancaster area.
As usual, of course, the proposal does not include any assessment of how many jobs might be lost elsewhere should the project get the go ahead.
• There is still time to comment on the planning applications. All of the documents, including the consultation responses submitted so far, can be viewed online at http://planapps.lancaster.gov.uk, and comments can be submitted there too. Enter the application reference number 10/00251/FUL (the proposed new Booths store) or 10/00366/OUT (the CEP development, further south).
• Lancaster Green Party Lawson's Bridge Campaign Page