It was standing room only at the council chamber at Pittwood House as the planning committee sat to decide whether to give a controversial planning application the go ahead.
The application put forward by Simons Development Limited is to demolish Trent Valley Garden Centre along with its associated structures which include three residential properties and erect a retail park consisting of five units with associated access roads, car parking, servicing areas and hard and soft landscaping. The £20m, 40,000 sq ft complex on the edge of Scunthorpe is expected to create around 300 jobs and will include five units with Marks and Spencer being the anchor store.
The meeting started off rather heatedly when John Hayes was first to speak against the proposals, he said, “we want Marks and Spencer back where they best serve the community” he went on to accuse the council of bending over backwards for M&S and said, “they are not the be all and end all of the universe, they have twice pulled out of town centre developments in the past both at the TJ Hughs site and The Parishes when their share prices fell.” He accused M&S of ‘big company blackmail attitude’ and revealed there was 250,000 sq ft of empty retail space in Scunthorpe town centre.
He was told by the Chair of the meeting, Cllr Arthur Bunyan, that he doesn’t like his tone, whilst committee member Cllr Mick Grant said “if anyone else comes with that attitude I will walk out of the meeting.”
Local resident, Ian McPherson, spoke of concerns with parking on the Lodge Moor Estate as well as children having to face increased traffic along Doncaster Road. He also expressed concerns for the wildlife and the loss of the pond, mirroring it with the loss of the pond over at Ashby Lakeside Parkway.
Des Commerford, who has lead the Keeping Scunthorpe Alive campaign said, “if the development was to go ahead the town centre would lose £32 million in sales” he continued, “we need to work together for Scunthorpe, why has the application been approve by the planning officer when it is against North Lincolnshire Councils ‘Core Strategy’.” He also said, “there are currently 50 empty retail units in the town centre so this is a monumental decision and asks the application be refused.”
One of the conditions should the planners give the green light was that for the first five years only one of the other four retail units could be occupied by an existing town centre trader. Thereby no retailers within the town centre could leave to occupy any of the units along side M&S, this condition would be in place for a period of five years. Local resident and Director of the Hospital Trust, Alan Bell said, “the town is currently fragmented into 5 retail areas, could the town support a sixth? What is to stop a town centre store shutting down and then 6 months later opening up at the new store alongside M&S? What is to stop a store from across the road at the Gallagher Retail Park from relocating alongside M&S and a town centre store moving to Gallagher?” Whilst Alan Brown, another local resident speaking for the development, said, “it was more of an extension to an established retail park which already includes numerous restaurants, stores along with Tescos, rather than a new one.” He also questioned to argument that the development would take footfall away from the town centre and asked how many traders use the internet which in itself takes away footfall.
Also there opposing the development was a representative from Marshalls Yard in Gainsborough who expressed that Scunthorpes easy links to the motorway network would draw shoppers away from venturing to their town having a detrimental impact.
Chris Newsome from Simons Development Ltd revealed the development would return between £14 & £19 million pound back into the local economy per annum. He went on to say, “ many people have likened Scunthorpe to Rotherham town centre but using that as a model is misleading as Meadow Hall is on Rotherhams doorstep.” He also revealed over 2000 people along with Scunthorpe United had written in support of the development.
Transport representatives for the developers tried to allay traffic concerns with the news of ‘substantial widening of Doncaster Road’ with the creation of a two lane carriageway running from the Tesco roundabout to Berkeley Circle, whilst in the opposite direction creating two lanes running for 80 meters to the Tesco roundabout. The road improvements would also see the removal of the ‘right turn’ off Doncaster Road into Hilton Avenue whilst £300,000 would be made available for improvements to Berkeley Circle.
Among the councilors raising concerns were Local Labour Group leader Cllr Mark Kirk who said, “This is not just about M&S, it’s about the other stores that might relocate there, we believe we could accommodate M&S within the town centre.” He also made comment that there was no model of traffic flows around the area on football match days.
Gunness ward councilor, Dave Oldfield, who represents the ward where the development is planned said his primary concerns were the impact on the residents of both the Lodge Moor & Berkeley Estates along with the 3 families who will be,” thrown onto the streets.” He also claimed the development would ‘suck the heart out of the town centre’ and the council should not be party to ‘Boarded up Britain’.
The votes were as follows,
Cllr Helen Rowson (Cons) Against
Cllr Ron Allcock (Cons) For
Cllr Nigel Sherwood (Cons) For
Cllr Arthur Bunyan (Cons) For
Cllr Sandra Bainbridge (Lab) Against
Cllr Mick Grant (Lab) Against
Cllr John Collinson (Lab) Against
Cllr Mashook Ali (Lab) Against
Cllr John Wardle (Cons) For
Cllr John England (Cons) For
The Chair, Cllr Arthur Bunyan, having already used his own vote for the development, used his Chair’s Casting vote to push the development through resulting in a overall 6/5 in favour of the proposals.
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