Reversing a view put forward last month, Cheshire East’s planning officers have recommended a 26,400 sq ft extension of the retailer’s Handforth store for approval next week.
The proposed expansion was set to go before Cheshire East’s strategic planning board last month with a recommendation to refuse, but this was withdrawn late in the date.
M&S’s proposals will now return to the council but this time with a recommendation to approve with council officers being won over by the retailer’s argument that there were no suitable sites available elsewhere.
Previously, officers had accused M&S of not considering other sites for a potential development of a new store; these included Churchill Way in Macclesfield had not been considered; this site was formerly to be developed by Ask for a cinema and leisure-led scheme but the plug was pulled last year.
As part of its application, M&S said it had looked at a number of sites, including Daisy Bank Lane in Heald Green; Metropolitan House in Cheadle Hulme; Wilmslow Leisure Centre’s car park; Water Street in Stockport; Barracks Mill in Macclesfield; and the Massie Street car park, also in Cheadle Hulme.
Cheshire East planners had previously claimed M&S had not considered four sites in Macclesfield for the development: Churchill Way; the Duke Street car park; the Exchange Street car park; and Arighi Bianchi’s depot, south of Samuel Street.
In updated evidence submitted to officers, M&S ruled out each of these sites in turn; at Churchill Way, Ask’s failure to bring forward a scheme was cited to be a suggestion that retail or leisure use was not viable; while at Duke Street, the retailer pointed towards an emerging SRF for Macclesfield which suggested this site would likely be used for a multi-storey car park.
At Exchange Street, which is used as a car park for B&M and Tesco, M&S said there would be a major adverse impact from a loss of car parking spaces, while the Arighi Bianchi site is currently in use and was not considered to be available for development.
After all these sites were ruled out, Cheshire East’s planning officers said they would be willing to support the scheme ahead of committee.
The 26,400 sq ft extension to the retailer’s existing store at Handforth Dean Retail Park, opened in 1995, includes demolishing the existing M&S entrance pavilion at the South East end of the existing store, and building on part of the existing car park, which will be reconfigured to provide 153 spaces. Plans were originally put forward in 2017 but before this summer had not yet made it to committee.
Handforth Dean Retail Park and its surrounds have seen various long-running planning battles in recent years, with developers and Cheshire East arguing over the impact on local centres, including Macclesfield, if further retail is built out at the park.