The council disputed the appellant’s sequential assessment of alternative sites, which showed a preference for an out-of-centre retail format with level parking. It claimed that the appellants had rejected realistic opportunities for an expanded unit in a town centre shopping arcade where Next had previously traded. Reviewing the case law presented by both sides on the matter of whether the identity of a retailer is relevant in applying a sequential assessment, the reporter took a cautious approach.
He decided that the most important consideration is not the retailer but the retail format, which in this case involved a mixed comparison store with homeware and fashion items. He concluded that the town centre shopping arcade could provide a suitable site by combining units, which was an available and sequentially preferable option. On this basis, he concluded, the proposal was contrary to development plan policy.
The reporter noted a retail consultant’s view that the advantages of retaining Next in the town outweighed conflict with the sequential assessment, but observed that it was not guaranteed that the retailer would occupy the retail park unit. In his view, the quantitative benefits of clawing back comparison goods expenditure and the potential qualitative benefits for the town’s retail offer did not outweigh the proposal’s failure to comply with the town centres first approach set by local and national policy.
Reporter: David Liddell; Written representations