Turning up the heat on out-of-town scheme

A computer-generated image of the proposed M&S store.
A computer-generated image of the proposed M&S store.

Three Alnwick organisations are putting up a united front in a bid to block a retail development on the edge of town, which will include an M&S Foodhall.

Alnwick Chamber of Trade, Alnwick Civic Society and Local Living are submitting a joint letter to Tuesday’s county council planning committee, where officers have recommended the plan be approved.

The groups are drawing councillors’ attention to the reasons why permission should be refused. Their three principal objections are on the grounds of conflict with the Neighbourhood Plan, failure to reflect up-to-date trends and relevant local data in the applicant’s Retail Impact Study and concerns about traffic management and road safety due to the development site’s proximity to the A1 slip road.

“We should not abandon our principles because of the lure of a High Street name like Marks & Spencer,” said Philip Angier of Local Living. “The policy guidelines in the Neighbourhood Plan were drafted with care to protect the character of our town, and this proposed development lies outside the corridor permitted by the Plan.

“Can a troubled retailer announcing store closures nationally really guarantee new jobs and prosperity to the town?”

David Taylor, on behalf the Chamber of Trade, said: “One of the frustrations of this proposal is that the impact assessment appears to have been done entirely as a desktop study. Much of the data used is at least a year old.

“Nobody has come to interview businesses in the town or gather views about the reality of trading in 2018. Shopping trends are changing. We should be looking at new ways of trading, not repeating the out-of-town mistakes of the past. Alnwick is still a premier tourism destination but that is no reason to allow an out-of-town development like this.”

The Civic Society has undertaken an annual traffic census in the area and raises significant concerns about the proximity of this proposed development to the A1 slip road. “Traffic in this part of Alnwick has already increased by 32%over the last two years,” said Peter Ennor, chairman of the Civic Society. “The consultants have failed to anticipate the safety risks of congestion on Willowburn Avenue.”

would cause at the A1/South Road junction. At peak times

we already see queuing on the A1 slip road without the impact of this

development.

“The applicants promise that this development will bring more jobs and more

shoppers, and they are planning for more than 200 new car park spaces, but

they’ve allowed for only minimal extra traffic volumes in their transport plan.

Something seems to be awry with the arithmetic.”.

As reported in last week’s Gazette the development proposal will go before

the Strategic Planning Committee in Morpeth on 5 th June. Full details about the

proposal can be found on the Northumberland County Council website using

reference 17/04374/FUL..