Marks & Spencer’s long-running attempts to expand its store in Handforth look to have suffered a serious blow after Cheshire East planners recommended the scheme for refusal.
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 month have 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.
In Marks & Spencer’s case, the council admitted the extension would not have an adverse impact on existing, committed, and planned retail investment within the catchment area of Handforth Dean, and there would not be an impact on “town centre vitality and viability” if the store is extended.
Despite this, planning officers have recommended the extension for refusal, accusing M&S of not considering other sites for a potential development of a new store.
In representations put forward to planning officers, there are claims that potential sites including 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.
Each of these sites were dismissed by the retailer, and Cheshire East planners accepted that none of these would be available and suitable for a new store.
M&S was then asked by the council to consider further sites in Wythenshawe, Stockport, and Macclesfield for the store, including a former Toys R Us in Stockport.
Cheshire East planners 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.
Planners said M&S would need to show evidence it had considered these sites, and the former Toys R Us site, before it would be allowed to advance its plans at Handforth Dean.
Planning officers said: “Whilst it is accepted that the sites that the applicant has identified are not suitable to accommodate the proposed development, there are a number of alternative sites in Stockport and Macclesfield that require assessment or an update to the previously identified situation, before the application can be considered to satisfy the sequential test.”
Cheshire East’s planning committee will decide on the proposals at a meeting next week.