The supermarket group’s proposals for a store off University Way in Crewe are again recommended for refusal following deferral at October’s Cheshire East southern planning committee.
Although the scheme in general, which is intended to replace a store at the Grand Junction Retail Park, is regarded as acceptable in areas such as design, impact on retail in Crewe and Haslington and traffic impact, officers argue that greater weight should be given to the site’s allocation for employment use in the Local Plan.
Aldi’s application is for a 19,000 sq ft store, along with 132 car parking spaces, with access off University Way. The GJRP store is described by Aldi as “no longer fit for purpose,” lacking in dedicated parking and being, in views expressed in several representations, cramped.
The proposed replacement store has been designed by the Harris Partnership.
The land at Crewe Green, around a mile outside Crewe town centre, has however been set aside for employment use under Cheshire East’s Local Plan, and has a historic consent for office use from both 2004 and 2010.
Officers recommended refusal ahead of October’s committee, but consideration was deferred for several reasons: to allow reinvestigation of the sequential test in response to a late objection from Savills, for more information on take-up of business space south of the site, and for some consideration of the impact upon smaller retailers.
The view of officers is that the local commercial market is strong, particularly in high-end industrial. Since the deferral, Legat Owen, at the request of the council’s arms-length employment body the Skills & Growth Company has provided a letter outlining the lack of available business space and record occupancy levels.
Nearby Orion Park, to the south of the site, is full, mostly letting or selling prior to completion, while Apollo Park, which is due for completion in January, has pre-let three of six units.
The Skills & Growth Company said: “The site is in a successful employment area, close to a range of major business parks that have already attracted major businesses requiring office and light industrial premises. It is also in an ideal attractive location on the Crewe Green roundabout and is close to the new Crewe Green Link Road and the M6.”
In terms of evidence submitted, JLL has represented Aldi and filed evidence in the sequential test, while Savills acts for GJRP owner Triton.
While WYG, representing Cheshire East, accepted that JLL had seriously examined alternative sites as required by the sequential test – including the Royal Arcade, due to undergo a major redevelopment – it did not accept that development prospects at the GJRP had been exhausted:
“On the basis of the information provided by the applicant to date, and the subsequent submissions by Savills on behalf of Triton, we are not yet satisfied that sufficient evidence has been provided to demonstrate that the sequential test has been passed.”
Approval was given in 2014 for Aldi’s expansion at GJRP, but the consent has now expired.
The southern planning committee meets on Wednesday 28 November.