The site occupied part of an area allocated in a draft area action plan for uses including housing, employment, retail and leisure. The main parties disputed the degree to which the proposed store would be able to claw back expenditure lost to other towns and out-of-centre retail stores.
The council alleged that a lower level of clawback was likely, increasing the degree to which the scheme would affect a Co-op supermarket in the town centre. The appellants maintained that the town retained less than 15 per cent of convenience goods and less than two per cent of comparison goods expenditure generated in its catchment area. The only way to offset this was to improve the quality of food retailing for local residents, they argued.
The town centre had been declining for many years and its vitality and viability levels were low, the inspector noted. He agreed that a better range of food shopping facilities would allow it to compete more effectively with facilities in other centres which drew local residents away.
Provision of a car park in an edge-of-centre location was likely to generate linked trips and unlikely to lead to the closure of the Co-op store, he considered. He remarked that the new store would have a wide range of sustainability and energy efficiency credentials. While recognising that members of the public might view it as a standard supermarket, he judged that the design reflected the constraints of the site and surrounding townscape.
Although in some views the scheme would appear to be dominated by the car park, the inspector agreed that this was inevitable because part of the site was subject to flood risk. The townscape benefits of repositioning the building on a different part of the site were outweighed by the flood mitigation and linked trip benefits of the submitted scheme, he ruled.
DCS Number 100-068-734
Inspector John Gray; Inquiry.