Two schemes were proposed on a 14-hectare field near a new roundabout under construction as part of strategic road network improvements. The larger scheme offered 84 shops with a net sales area of 16,196 square metres, the smaller proposed 70 shops with a net sales area of 11,048 square metres. The land already had outline permission for an employment development comprising 8,360 square metres of B1 business space and 12,600 square metres of B8 storage or distribution uses.
After calling in the application, the secretary of state agreed with the inspector that there was no evidence to suggest that the scheme’s scale had been pitched so that it would be impossible to identify a town centre site in undertaking a sequential test assessment. He also accepted that no sequentially preferable sites were available in the area of search, which included five neighbouring planning authority areas. He concluded that there would be no significant adverse impact on the vitality and viability of local town centres in good health.
The secretary of state took a somewhat pragmatic approach to consistency with government policy promoting sustainable transport. While recognising that an out-of-centre site would not minimise the need to travel, he placed weight on the lack of sequentially preferable sites and a travel plan and measures to increase foot and cycle access, which in his view were as much as could be achieved. Giving significant weight to the creation of up to 700 jobs, he concluded that the proposals accorded with the development plan and no other material considerations pointed to refusal.
Inspector: George Baird; Inquiry