56,000 sqm mixed-use Somerset scheme refused over town centre impact concerns

Plans have been refused for a 56,000 square metre mixed-use employment-led scheme on a greenfield site on the edge of Yeovil in Somerset, in line with a recommendation from planners who concluded that the development could compromise the council's strategy for "regenerating, enhancing and improving the vitality of Yeovil town centre".

A masterplan visualisation of the development. (Image courtesy of Abbey Manor Group Ltd and Sainsbury’s Supermarkets Ltd)
A masterplan visualisation of the development. (Image courtesy of Abbey Manor Group Ltd and Sainsbury’s Supermarkets Ltd)

Applicants Abbey Manor Group and Sainsbury’s Supermarkets had sought planning consent from South Somerset District Council for the scheme on a 21.6-hectare site known as Bunford Park in the west of the city. The site is allocated in the council’s local plan for strategic employment use.

The hybrid application sought outline planning permission for a 56,051 square metre business park (B1/B8 uses).

It also sought full planning permission for the first 2,040 square metres of office space of the overall 56,051 square metre scheme, and an 8,443 square metre A1 use foodstore with associated infrastructure, including a petrol filling station.

According to a planning report, the site currently comprises open fields.

The report said the proposed foodstore was in a use class that is categorised in the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) as a main "town centre use" and the proposed location is classified as an "out of centre" location.

Planners noted that, as required by the council’s local plan and NPPF, the applicant had undertaken a sequential test and impact assessment in support of the proposal.

The report said that this had concluded that there are no sequentially preferable sites, and that the proposed development "would not have a significant adverse impact on the vitality and viability of Yeovil town centre or any planned investment in the centre".

However, the report said that an assessment carried out by the council had concluded that the town’s Cattle Market site "is suitable and available if Sainsbury’s were to be more appropriately flexible as encouraged by the NPPF and [planning] guidance."

The report said that planners had also concluded that the plans would be "likely to have a significant adverse impact on the vitality and viability of Yeovil town centre and the existing and planned investment in Yeovil town centre".

The report said: "Allowing this application for additional ‘out of centre’ floorspace will erode the confidence of landowners wishing to progress development proposals within the town centre, where sites are more expensive. The market is increasingly competitive and fragile, as such, this proposal could compromise the approved strategy for regenerating, enhancing and improving the vitality of Yeovil town centre."

The plans were refused.

In March, the High Court backed a council's planning permission for a 2,300 square metre out-of-town centre homeware store in Devon, after a judge dismissed a rival retailer's argument that an impact assessment should have been required solely for the element of the scheme selling convenience goods.

In January, councillors refused plans by Sainsbury's to further subdivide an approved retail scheme on the edge of Middlesbrough into five separate units, after officers advised that the proposal would have negative impacts on the town centre.


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