Cheshire East’s planning committee has voted 10 to one to refuse consent for a 50,000 sq ft retail park off Mill Street, despite the project’s developer and contractor both arguing it could “rejuvenate a derelict site”.
The proposals by developer CWC Group were for both retail and housing, including three retail units, 281 car parking spaces, and outline plans for up to 53 homes.
The occupiers for the retail element included Lidl in a 24,000 sq ft unit, and B&M in a 23,000 sq ft unit. An outline application was also made for 53 homes next to a nearby Wickes store, which were to include a mix of detached, semi-detached, and terraced houses.
The proposals were recommended for refusal ahead of yesterday’s Southern planning committee, and councillors voted to reject the scheme by 10 votes to one after an 80-minute discussion.
A number of representations in favour of the scheme were put forward, including from Carl Parker, managing director of Crewe-based Pioneer Design & Build, the main contractor lined up for the retail element of the scheme.
Parker said the 12-month build process would have created up to 200 job opportunities for local subcontractors and tradespeople.
He added that the application would have “rejuvenated another derelict site” in Crewe.
“We should be supporting developers who are investing millions of pounds in our home town,” he said. “It will not only have a positive effect on the local area, but also inspire many businesses to do the same and to draw further investment into our thriving town.”
The developer’s representative, Mark Freeman, director of CWC Group, said he was “extremely disappointed” the proposal was recommended for refusal by planning officers.
“Following our meetings with Cheshire East, we noted comments on the ‘sea of car parking’ and revised the scheme by removing 65 parking spaces and reinstating the grass verge facing Mill Street,” he said.
“Overall, 24% of the site in front of the retail units will be soft landscaping. With safety in mind, the layout offers excellent natural surveillance, and we will ensure it is well-lit and covered by CCTV.”
Freeman added CWC would look to salvage any heritage materials from the site and incorporate it within the development.
Concerns raised by councillors included issues over contamination of the land, access to the town’s railway station, and the proposals’ design.
Cllr Rhodes argued the design was not appropriate for the area, and said: “If it’s going to be in keeping with the local area, it needs to be in brick, not in tin-clad sheds”.
She also urged the developer to reconsider the layout of the site, including relocating the proposed coffee shop to the corner of Mill Street and Lockitt Street. This is despite the fact the contractor and developer had argued the Lockitt Street side of the site could not be built on due to drainage constraints, stipulated by United Utilities.
Cllr Clowes said the drainage and easement constraints were “relatively simple” and said “no real effort had been made” to accommodate them.
She also asked that a first stage of ground investigation should be carried out before any development of the site was allowed, and added there was “no real consideration” for open space on the housing part of the scheme.
Councillors argued the housing element would be “in an area where air quality was very low” and argued the homes should not be “stuffed up against the railway line.”
Cllr Butterill added the committee should “feel assured” there was “a proper investigation of the site,” including for asbestos and any contamination in the ground.
The refusal comes despite the fact that Cheshire East had previously approved a similar scheme on the same site. Delivery of that project was put on hold due to the proposed HS2 Masterplan, which outlined what land would be needed to deliver the high-speed rail link in the town, and permission expired in 2016.
CWC said the previously approved scheme also proved to be undeliverable due to the utilities constraints on the site.
Councillors also rejected the proposals although 85% of attendees at a series of public consultations held last summer were found to be in favour of the development, with only 4% against the proposals.
The professional team on the project includes architect Corstophine + Wright, and Plan A.