A concerned business leader fears that a proposed new retail park on the edge of Alnwick will impact the town centre if it is given the go-ahead.
Alnwick Chamber of Trade chairman Carlo Biagioni has spoken out against Northumberland Estates’ plans for the major development on land south of Greensfield Industrial Estate.
The scheme, lodged with the county council last month, includes a food store, a smaller unit for food and/or non-food retail unit, an additional non-food retail floor space, likely to be sub-divided into three separate units, a drive-through coffee shop and approximately 226 car-parking spaces.
There is no information at this stage as to which retailers may be taking on the plots, but Lichfields, which is handling the planning process on behalf of the Estates, says that the units are likely to be occupied by national multiple operators.
However, Mr Biagioni is not in favour of the proposals. He said: “My personal opinion is that as many people as possible should object to this as it is a detrimental impact on the town centre.
“We just have to look at towns in Scotland – Kilmarnock, Irvine, Saltcoats just to mention a few – to see the devastating effects out-of-town retail parks have had on them. Will we never learn?
“I feel that the many empty shops and units in the town should be filled instead of building more and encouraging out-of-town shopping.
“The town centre is the heart of Alnwick and we should be spending money on maintaining and improving it. We have a little gem here and we should do everything in our power to protect and save it.”
He also criticised the timing of the scheme, which was lodged just before Christmas, saying it doesn’t give the public a proper chance to view the plans.
Regarding the retail park’s potential impact on the town, Lichfields states that it is envisaged that the proposed food store (the largest unit)will be occupied by a high-end, premium retailer.
It adds: ‘On this basis, and given the size of the new store, it would complement, rather than directly compete, with the majority of existing provision within the town centre’.
When the proposals were first unveiled in the summer, with the promise of around 90 jobs being created, they sparked a mixed reaction from our readers.
Chairman of Alnwick Markets, Philip Angier, wants the retail-park proposals to be carefully scutinised.
In a letter to the Gazette, he said: “The Alnwick and Denwick Neighbourhood Plan was adopted last year. In respect to retail development, it considers how the Plan can and should support a locally distinctive retail offering and other town-centre facilities, attractive both to residents and to visitors. It sets demanding standards of proof in respect of a significant out-of-town-centre retail development proposal.
“Through our Plan and our elected representatives we should come to a view as to whether a proposed development is desirable and appropriate, not simply defer to the professionals.
“Let’s defend the policies behind the Plan and scrutinise this proposal very carefully to satisfy ourselves that all permitted development really does meet the needs and best aspirations of our community.”