Decision day on four plans to expand Handforth Dean retail park

The Strategic Planning Committee will meet next week to determine plans which could significantly expand the retail park at Handforth Dean.

Four separate planning applications will be discussed on Wednesday, 19th April, which could potentially add a large number of retail units along with restaurants, cafes, drive-thus and parking.

The first three applications are from Alderley Edge based company CPG Development Projects who have applied to build a retail and leisure development on a Council owned site at Earl Road.

The first application (reference 16/0138M), which includes 23,076 sqm of retail space alongside cafes and restaurants, has been amended and reduced in scale since the original submission in January 2016. The amendments include the removal of the originally proposed hotel.

The second application (reference 16/0802M) is for the erection of four restaurants and three drive-thru restaurant/cafe's along with associated car parking, servicing and landscaping.

Although separate applications have been submitted, this application is part of a phased approach to development on the site and is referred to as Phase 2. However, the larger retail scheme (16/0138M) encompasses both Phase 2 and Phase 3 as a single application.

The proposed development will bring the vacant site back into use and provide approximately 730 additional jobs when operational. 

Both of these applications are being recommended for refusal. Whilst it is recognised the proposals would generate a significant number of jobs they would result in the loss of employment land at a time when the Council is actively allocating additional employment land as part of its emerging local plan.

The Planning Officer's report states "The need for sites is such that even Green Belt locations are currently being identified for future employment purposes in the north of the Borough. The loss of the application site would exacerbate this situation and place further pressure to locate sites within the Green Belt.

"Despite the identified substantial benefits it is considered that the applicants have failed to demonstrate that there is no reasonable prospect of the site being used for employment purposes. The proposal is therefore contrary to policies E1 and E2 of the Macclesfield Borough Local Plan, policy EG3 of the CELPS and paragraph 22 of the Framework. Accordingly the application is recommended for refusal."

The third application from CPG Development Projects (reference 16/3284M) is for an extension to the recently constructed Next store. The proposal includes the demolition of the existing conservatory and garden centre so that two independent retail units can be built which would create an additional 40 jobs.

However this application, which has been amended and reduced in scale since the original submission in July 2016, is being recommended for approval because the Employment Site is already being used for retail with the Council having granted planning permission for the Next Store in 2013.

The Planning Officer stated "The application site is allocated as an Existing Employment Site in the Macclesfield Borough Local Plan where policies E1 and E2 seek to provide and retain a range of employment land in order to facilitate sustainable economic growth. However the majority of the site is already used for retail purposes, which is considered to be a significant material consideration that outweighs the normal policy presumption against retail use in Existing Employment Areas. Therefore the principle of the development is largely accepted."

There have been a number of applications for mixed use developments on the site since 1995, which have included proposals for cinema, leisure and retail development. All of which were refused.

Additionally, Orbit Developments' application (reference 16/5678M) to demolish the existing warehouses at the junction of Earl Road and Epsom Avenue and replace them with a parade of six units and a standalone single storey unit will also be discussed, having been deferred from the Strategic Planning Committee meeting on 22nd March so they could consider it at the same time as the other three applications for retail development in the area.

Orbit's scheme includes five units for non-food retail purposes and two units to be used for non-food retail or sandwich shop. The plans also includes the creation of a car park with 183 spaces and a new access from Earl Road. The adjacent offices are to be retained.

The Planning Officer is also recommending this application for refusal stating that the loss of employment land outweighs the benefits.

The report states "The proposal seeks to provide a retail use on a site allocated for employment purposes. The existing warehouse and office buildings on the site are currently occupied, and it has therefore not been demonstrated that there is no reasonable prospect of the site being used for employment purposes, as required by paragraph 22 of the NPPF. The development is therefore contrary to policies E1 and E2 of the Macclesfield Borough Local Plan and policy EG3 of the Proposed Changes Version of the emerging Cheshire East Local Plan Strategy."

Orbit Developments, commented "We cannot understand why our application has been brought together with this larger scheme. Our proposals are modest and quite straightforward and have been reviewed to the satisfaction of Council Officers and their consultants, save for one point that relates to employment land designation. This is same use as the Council's land upon which the new NEXT store has been approved, and recently opened. This, in addition to approvals granted to change nearby business units (on the same land designation) to a gym and trampoline centre.

"The site is adjacent to Handforth Dean Shopping Centre and the new NEXT and is a natural continuation of the retail offer. Extensive marketing and speculative construction of offices that have remained vacant for a period of 10 years has failed to bring occupiers to this area. The land is partially vacant and also contains substandard old warehouse units, which are not suitable for modern use. Indeed Planning Consent has been granted for their demolition.

"We have prepared extensive papers on the economic benefits and up to 290 new jobs that would be created by the development, as well as plans for the protection of the 7 existing jobs in the existing warehouse.

"The application is a re-submission of a previously refused proposal, which is the subject of a Planning Appeal, which will involve significant time and cost for both ourselves and the Council. We are providing payments to Local Highways/footpath and lighting improvements, recreation and open spaces as well as to the Council's budget for training and investment in employment, totalling in excess of £600,000. Pro rata this is in excess of the contribution made by the NEXT scheme, which was of a larger area.  

"Orbit contend that our application should be treated in a consistent, equitable, pragmatic and flexible manner, consistent with the new NEXT store and other approvals granted."

CPG Development Projects, Handforth Dean, Orbit Developments, Planning Applications