The site fell in a large development area. A local plan inspector had concluded that a food store of around 1,000m2 net would be appropriate to meet local needs. The developers argued that a larger store was needed to compete with superstores serving other parts of the town and claw back trade lost to stores further afield. The 500m2 increase in convenience sales area would not undermine the council's retail strategy, they asserted.
The council explained that its retail strategy had been informed by consultants over a long period. Sainsbury's proposed to redevelop its town centre store and the council was also trying to secure a mixed development on an edge-of-centre site capable of accommodating a 2,000m2 net store that could be occupied by Waitrose. It argued that the appellants should have undertaken a sequential assessment.
The inspector agreed with this claim. PPS4 makes a clear distinction between new and existing shopping centres, he observed. The appellants could not claim that the store would fall in an existing centre because none had yet been built, he reasoned. On this basis, he concluded that an assessment of central and edge-of-centre sites was required.
The appellants had rejected both of the sites referred to by the council. The fact that one of these was owned by an existing retailer did not justify an excessively large store on the appeal site, he held. Nor could such an argument be advanced in relation to the mixed-use scheme, which was subject to a recent application.
In his view, the fact that building a store on an edge-of-centre site would not meet the claimed need for a larger store on the appeal land carried little weight because there was a risk that it would divert food shopping trips from more central locations and reduce scope for linked trips. In his view, the council had demonstrated a thorough knowledge of the retail function of the town.
DCS Number 100-069-780
Inspector David Wildsmith; Inquiry