Proposals by developer Clowes for a 50,000 sq ft retail park and housing project off Mill Street in Crewe have been recommended for refusal when Cheshire East’s Southern planning committee meets next week.
Designed by architect Corstorphine + Wright, the scheme includes three large retail units, 281 car parking spaces, and outline proposals for a housing development to the north of the nine-acre site alongside the railway.
The occupiers for the retail element are Lidl in a 24,000 sq ft unit, and B&M in a 23,000 sq ft unit.
The application also includes an outline submission for up to 53 homes neighbouring a nearby Wickes store. According to a planning and retail statement from Plan A, these would be a mix of detached, semi-detached and terraced houses.
Plans for development of a similar scale were previously approved by Cheshire East, but the delivery of the scheme 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.
The planners said it “has taken some time for the conclusion to be drawn that the application site will not be required to deliver HS2,” and this led to the previous outline planning permission to expire in 2016.
Plans for the scheme were resubmitted late last year, but Cheshire East planning officers have now recommended the scheme for refusal, following a mixed reaction from local stakeholders.
Crewe Town Council has opposed the plans, arguing the development “misses the opportunity” to create a “high quality development linking the station to the town centre”.
The town council also said the design of the scheme was “inoffensive but without any attempt to reflect local character or excellence in contemporary design”, and criticised its lack of a “more direct, open and attractive [pedestrian] route” to the site.
However, at a series of public consultations held last summer, 85% of attendees were found to be in favour of the development with only 4% against the proposals.
In their report to Cheshire East Council, planning officers agreed with the town council’s assessment that the proposals did not link well with the railway station and town centre.
The report said the scheme was “consistent” with Crewe’s local plan in terms of land use, but argued the scheme “would not reflect the existing character of the area” and would not “provide an active frontage to Mill Street”.
“The proposal provides no reference [or] response to Crewe’s railway heritage”, added the report. “No attempt had been made to reflect the heritage element nor does the red brick character of the area feature.”
Planners concluded the benefits of the proposal, including job creation, the regeneration of a brownfield site, and the creation of open market homes, was outweighed by the “poor design” and a lack of a link between the railway and the town centre.
Cheshire East’s Southern planning committee is due to discuss the proposals on 7 February.
Corstophine + Wright was approached for comment.