Plans for retail park at Bar Hill rejected
Plans for a new retail park off the A14 have been rejected by South Cambridgeshire District Council’s planning committee.
The proposal was to demolish three derelict buildings on the Norman Park Industrial Estate off Saxon Way, Bar Hill and to erect a large retail space earmarked for Next, Boots and M&S.
The applicant says the decision means “millions of pounds worth of investment has been lost as a result”.
Concerns were raised that the shops may compete with and detract from plans for the Northstowe town centre development - and that the proposal was not consistent with the local plan.
Councillors voted ten to one to reject the planning application in agreement with an officer’s recommendation.
Speaking after the decision today (Wednesday, August 14) a spokesperson for the applicant, Legal & General Assurance Ltd, said it was a very disappointing outcome.
“There were wide-ranging community and economic benefits arising from this proposal and they are now lost as a result of that decision,” the spokesperson said, adding: “There is the possibility of seeking an appeal against the decision, but we will need to consider whether we will pursue that.”
The spokesperson said the plan would have created 400 jobs and “millions of pounds worth of investment has been lost as a result of the decision”.
South Cambridgeshire planning officer Rebecca Ward told the committee that the proposal would be an unsustainable form of development, not in line with council policies, and would cause the “the loss of valued employment space from the district supply”.
She said the three buildings proposed for demolition had been vacant since at least 2018.
The government’s house building accelerator, Homes England, opposed the plans.
Matthew Morris, speaking for Homes England’s retail planning advisor, Avison Young, said the proposals could have a “significant adverse impact on the town centre investment” for Northstowe, which they said will be its “main feature”.
Mr Morris said Northstowe is the “preferable” location for this retail proposal.
But the applicant’s agent, Peter Keenan, told the committee Northstowe town centre is not due to be open until 2030 and Next and M&S have already written to the council saying they will not consider it as a location to trade.
He said: “Next and M&S have said… the reality is that as retailers we will not go into a town centre of that size any more”.
Cllr Peter Topping, who voted against the plans, said: “If we turn this down we are doing so on a wing and a prayer that Homes England and others will make Northstowe work – and it jolly well better had do.”
Cllr Peter Fane was the only councillor to vote in favour of the plans.
He said: “Since we know these retailers will not invest in Northstowe even if we knew what Northstowe will have available, we should look at this purely in terms of Bar Hill, and in terms of Bar Hill this will increase the sustainability of that village and I think there is overall benefit shown.”