The site, 2.5 kilometres from the town centre, was occupied by a Homebase and two other smaller bulky goods stores with a combined gross floorspace of 10,440 square metres. The applicant proposed to replace these units with a 10,942 square metre store providing 3,809 square metres of net convenience sales floorspace and 1,765 square metres for comparison sales. The council supported the scheme but competing major food retailers challenged the proposal, claiming harm to the town centre and fearing a precedent for creation of an alternative town centre.
The inspector found adopted local retail policy out of date, particularly its requirement for need to be demonstrated now that the question of retail capacity is no longer a relevant policy test. In recommending approval, she applied the approach in paragraph 14 of the NPPF that permission should be granted unless any adverse impacts would significantly and demonstrably outweigh the benefits.
The secretary of state agreed that the store would provide a net increase in employment opportunities, increase consumer choice and variety, offer sustainable travel choices even though many trips would be by car, and improve the retail park environment. He was satisfied that the proposal would not harm existing, committed or planned investment, would have a relatively small retail impact on the town centre and would have no significant adverse effect on its vitality and viability. He concluded that the scheme was a sustainable form of development.
Inspector: Christina Downes; Inquiry