Act Now-Object to the First of the Planning Proposals

David Parker from the Newport Regeneration Partnership has supplied a summary planning note to help prospective objectors to the Indigo development (planning application for a supermarket at Classic Furniture site on Audley Avenue). The aim is that you will either write or email to show or objection to the plans, as many of the arguments are the same and precedent could be set.

The scale and form of the proposed developments are such that Newport Regeneration Partnership and the Chamber of Commerce believe that they will substantially change the character of the town and undermine the ‘fragile’ viability of the High Street where many retail and commercial outlets are already affected by the economic downturn.

Members of the Regeneration Partnership and the Chamber of Commerce have resolved to formally oppose a planning application for a supermarket on the Classis Furniture site, and other large-scale development proposals as described above. We would prefer to see new housing & retail development built on former developed sites within or adjacent to the High Street.

We want to encourage organisations and individuals across Newport and its neighbouring parishes to write, no later than 30th August 2011, to the Head of Planning at Telford & Wrekin Council to formally object to the planning application made by Indigo for a supermarket on the Classic Furniture site. 

Please (i) send your letter(s) to: Head of Planning, Telford & Wrekin, Council, Civic Offices, Malinsgate, Telford TF3 4LF or (ii) email: michael.barker@telford.gov.uk

We know that individual letters carry more weight than petitions and that letters of objection are more relevant if they focus on planning issues i.e. those matters that a Planning Board must properly consider when a planning application is before them. See below for a summary of the main issues of concern to help you draft your letter of objection.  Please use this information to frame an objection in your own words.

If you are willing to share a copy of your letter, or confirm that you have sent a letter, to the Head of Planning please email a copy to the Coordinator for Newport Regeneration Partnership – mikeatherton@oakhouseconsultancy.com  or drop a copy into the Guildhall. Alternatively, you can email the Facebook page creator at savenewport@gmail.com

Main Issues of Concern

Application No. TWC/2011/0632Erection of a new food store, cafe, access, highway works etc. Land at Audley Avenue. Indigo Planning.

The application is for the erection of a food store (5,084 square metres gross) with a retail sales floorspace of 2,787 square metres, together with approx 300 parking spaces. Highway works include a new roundabout on the bypass at Audley Ave. junction for the increased traffic. The application is supported by the required assessments and surveys (Retail Assessment, Traffic Assessment, Travel Plan etc) which all claim to demonstrate that there would be no significant adverse impacts from the development and that the development accords with policy. However there are numerous assumptions and contradictions in these documents which should be challenged. Some initial thoughts are:

Accessibility

The proposal is contrary to national and local retail policy (PPS4 and Core Strategy Policy CS6 Newport plus Saved Policies S1 Wrekin LP and CS9 of the DPD) which promotes investment in existing service centres with easy access by sustainable means of transport to improve social inclusion and to minimise the distance people travel.  This out-of-centre site is not easily accessible, it is further from the town centre than the Mere Park proposal which was judged by a Planning Inspector as unacceptable, can only be reached on foot from Audley Avenue (no footpaths on the bypass) and the very fact that a bus service is proposed demonstrates that the site, as it is, does not meet the objectives of the policy. The Travel Plan is an irrelevant paper exercise which suggests, for example, that the site is within walking distance of the ‘majority’ of Newport (a 2km radius is considered acceptable – carrying shopping??) and that cycling will be encouraged by  the provision of cycle parking spaces. The provision of a bus service (how long would that last?) should not be relied on to make the proposal acceptable. Even by car from within Newport, the site can only be accessed off the bypass which means that for many people their route will be down the High Street which has just had considerable investment to make it more pedestrian friendly and safe.

Scale and Need

The Mere Park proposal was for a smallish discount store and the Inspector considered that it failed the sequential test in that there were sites nearer the town centre where it could have been located. This proposal has avoided a similar judgement being made by making the proposed size more than twice that of Mere Park so that the argument is that it could not be accommodated on the sites nearer the centre and therefore the out-of-centre site is the nearest available. But does Newport need a store this size? Development should be limited to meeting local needs and those of the rural hinterland. The Mere Park Inspector considered that a small scale discount retailer could be accommodated in the town centre which would improve the retail mix. This out-of-centre superstore is grossly more than required for local needs and is aimed at a much wider catchment than even the ‘rural hinterland’. It’s too big and in the wrong place, basically.

Retail Assessment

There are numerous contradictions in the assessment – this needs rigorous examination and challenges of the assumptions.  It is based on a telephone survey (750 people) and an on-street survey (which we know aren’t comprehensive).   For example, the Indigo report claims that the proposed superstore will meet the ‘weekly shop’ needs of those who currently travel out of Newport and that this will only marginally affect Waitrose and the Co-op (large retailers can always adjust their prices to compete, apparently).  It claims that High Street shops that do not sell food will not be affected. Yet even their own survey shows that these shops (comparison goods shops) have declined in recent years while the service shops have increased and the fact that the superstore would be selling these comparison goods would be in direct competition with those still left on the High Street. There would definitely be an impact on the retailers in the High Street. More have closed since their survey.  The assumptions about the current health and vitality of the High Street, and its role at the heart of Newport, must be challenged.   Market Drayton has a number of superstores and a dead town centre.

There are huge implications from margins for error in these assessments – it has been shown that a 10% loss in turnover between all a town’s small independent local shops is likely to be sufficient over time to cause most to close.

Economic development

Core Strategy Policy CS6 for Newport – development is supposed to support its role as a market town and assist its regeneration whilst directly benefitting the local economy. As well as the adverse impact on the town centre and the negative impact on regeneration, the number of jobs for local people from this proposal is questionable.  Recent research suggests that for every job created by a large out-of-town superstore, at least the same number are lost from the local economy, not just in terms of local shop closures, but also from job losses in the local supply chain and in local service support.

How many of the stated 300 jobs would be full time proper jobs for local people? Most of these jobs are part-time low paid and if the store puts other retailers out of business, these are people’s livelihoods gone. What about the loss of 100 full time skilled jobs at Classic Furniture that will go from Newport as a direct result of this proposal?

The claim that a large store at the edge of Newport “would reduce the high level of expenditure leakage from the study area” is both irrelevant and misleading.  The ‘big four’ supermarkets (Tesco, Sainsbury, Asda and Morrisons) are simply aiming to increase their market share.  Money spent in a supermarket goes to the supermarket – wherever it is situated.

Tourism

One of the main strategic priorities in the Newport Tourism Action Plan 2008 is to support and sustain existing local retail businesses. Shopping is the main day visitor attraction with the variety and choice of shops given as chief attraction, therefore the further loss of any of our independent retailers would have a direct detrimental impact on tourism and its role in the economic regeneration of Newport.

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