Friday, November 8, 2013

News: Cortonwood plans passed on appeal


Plans for a significant expansion to Cortonwood Retail Park that could create 250 jobs in Rotherham have been approved after earlier being refused by Rotherham Council.

The plans from Budenny LLP would see a current distribution warehouse demolished to make way for six new out-of-town retail stores totalling 96,000 sq ft. The scheme will make the popular retail destination 30% bigger and add 310 more parking spaces.

Budenny LLP was formerly the property division of Alba PLC who built and operated the warehouse before leasing it to UPS in 2008. They are working with developers, Helical Retail, to realise the development.

The application was recommended for refusal by planners and turned down by the council's planning board in February. Reasons for refusal included a sequential assessment that was deemed "not sufficiently flexible and fails to adequately assess all available sequentially preferable sites in Rotherham and Barnsley town centres" and disagreements over the transport assessment on whether the development would have a significant adverse impact at peak periods on the highway network.

Rotherham council also considers that the proposed development would have a significant adverse impact on the vitality and viability of existing town centres within the catchment area including Rotherham, Wombwell and Goldthorpe and would also have a negative impact on the planned investment in Barnsley town centre.

Following an appeal by the applicants, a public inquiry was held last month.

Shortly before the inquiry the part of the reason for refusal relating to investment in Barnsley town centre was withdrawn by both Rotherham and Barnsley Councils. Barnsley Council subsequently clarified that it has no objection in relation to the impact on Barnsley town centre.

There was also an agreement between Rotherham Council, Barnsley Council and the appellant which led to withdrawal of the reason for refusal relating to impact on the highway network, subject to appropriate mitigation being secured.

This then left the reasons for refusal regarding the impact on town centres and the sequential test to be discussed at the inquiry held at the council's Riverside House.

The council called on a barrister, Timothy Leader from Arden Chambers and Dr J England, director of planning consultants, England & Lyle to help argue its case. Martin Robeson Planning acted for the appellant.

Sequential tests ensure that development is located in the most sustainable location first (usually in town centres), before other, less sustainable locations are chosen. In this case, planning inspector, Martin Pike disagreed with the council's reason for refusal stating that: "Both main parties agree that there are no sequentially preferable town centre or edge of centre sites within the appellant's primary catchment area [including the Dearne Valley, Chapletown, and east of Barnsley] that could accommodate the proposed development. Nor have any alternative and suitable out of centre sites been identified within this catchment."
The inspector also dismissed other sequential preferable sites including the Barnsley Marketplace scheme, Heelis Street/New Street on the edge of Barnsley town centre and the YEB site on Harborough Hill Road, also on the edge of Barnsley town centre. Mr Pike stated that "there are significant doubts that either represents a realistic alternative."

Rotherham Council's concern on the impact of the development on Rotherham town centre was also dismissed given that analysis showed that it is expected to divert £1.1m (around 1%) of comparison trade away from Rotherham town centre. Considered a small amount in planning terms.

The main impact would be felt by out of town locations such as Parkgate, which are not protected by retail policy.

Mr Pike said: "In circumstances where a much greater trade diversion is likely to be felt by the existing retail parks than is predicted by the Council, and where conditions in Rotherham town centre are not as bleak as portrayed by the Council, I believe that the adverse impact on town centre vitality and viability is likely to be very small and not "significant.""

Taking into account the significant increase in local employment against the impacts of the development, Mr Pike concluded: "In these circumstances the benefits of the development clearly outweigh the limited adverse impacts."

Developers, Helical, exchanged contracts on the site last year, subject to planning. The conditional purchase of the site is then subject to pre-lettings of a percentage of the retail space.

Cortonwood website
Helical website

Images: Budenny LLP / Helical Retail


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