Although the scheme did not meet the 2,500sqm floorspace threshold for a sequential test and impact assessment set by current development plan retail policy, emerging policy required retail impact assessment of store proposals over 350sqm gross floorspace in recognition of the need to protect vulnerable district centres from out of centre retailing. The appellant had provided an assessment at the council’s request. Noting NPPF support for setting local thresholds for retail impact assessment and in the absence of unresolved objections to the advanced emerging policy, the inspector gave it significant weight.
The appellant accepted that the proposed development would have an adverse impact on the anchor Co-op store and the question for the inspector was whether this would be significant and extend to the district centre as a whole. The inspector considered the appellant’s figures understated trade diversion from the district centre given its greater convenience and proximity for local residents to carry out top-up shopping when compared to the larger stores elsewhere from which the appellant suggested 70 per cent of trade would be drawn.
The inspector also found evidence of a strong interdependence between the Co-op and other businesses in the centre and concluded that by diverting trade from the centre and reducing footfall the proposed convenience store could undermine the range of consumer choice by jeopardising the existing mix of independent shops in the centre. He concluded the adverse impact would be contrary to policy seeking to maintain and enhance the vitality and viability of centres. The benefits of an additional flat, job creation and reduced travel did not, in his judgment, outweigh the harm to the district centre and he dismissed the appeal.
Inspector: Ian Radcliffe; Hearing