Go-ahead for retailer to take on vacant Alnwick unit

The site of the former Arable Farm Supplies, AFS, store in Alnwick.
The site of the former Arable Farm Supplies, AFS, store in Alnwick.

Alnwick is set to have another store selling pet, equestrian and gardening products after the green light was given to a planning application.

The plans, by WCF (West Cumberland Farmers) Ltd, which specialises in rural retailing and distribution, for a vacant industrial unit on the Sawmill Industrial Estate, were approved at Tuesday’s meeting of Northumberland County Council’s strategic planning committee.

The scheme will change the building’s use to allow the stock and sale of a range of pet, footwear, equestrian, smallholder, gardening and wild-bird products as well as a new lighting column, fencing, pedestrian access path, car parking and external alterations.

The site was formerly home to family business AFS Country Store, which closed its doors at the end of August 2015 after 38 years of trading.

It had sparked one objection, from Caroline O’Neill, who runs pet and equestrian supplier Mannings of Alnwick on the nearby Willowtree Industrial Estate.

As reported in last week’s Gazette, she has urged retailers and residents to work together to retain the town’s independent shops and identity. National chain Pets At Home is building a store on a site adjacent to Sainsbury’s, over the road from Mannings.

But it was pointed out that the products being sold by WCF will be similar to what was sold on the site before.

Coun Gordon Castle said that out-of-town trading is a concern in market towns, but noted there was no objection from the Chamber of Trade.