Consolidated Property Group’s hopes of delivering close to 250,000 sq ft of retail and restaurants at Handforth Dean Shopping Park face a major delay, as the public inquiry into the project and a further scheme by Orbit nears the end of its allotted time with a welter of evidence still to be heard.
Place North West understands that proceedings are running two weeks behind schedule, meaning that a further session will now be convened at a time suitable to all parties. Added to the time required by the Planning Inspector to complete his report to the Secretary of State, this could mean a delay of months – CPG had initially hoped to have its first restaurants trading by this summer.
The inquiry concerns three called-in applications by CPG for 240,000 sq ft of retail and restaurants at the Earl Road site and a recovered appeal by Orbit Investments (Properties) in respect of 65,000 sq ft.
CPG’s proposal is for phases two and three of a project that saw a Next store developed in phase one. Opened in November 2016, this was sold to Aviva Investors for £15.8m in May 2017.
Orbit has been fighting since 2015 to alter the make-up of its Handforth Dean Retail Park, immediately south of the Earl Road scheme on the A34 bypass, where it plans to replace offices and warehousing with seven retail units.
In May 2017, Cheshire East Council resolved to grant planning permission for the called-in CPG applications and refused permission for Orbit’s recovered appeal, which had first been refused in February 2016.
Having already been postponed in summer 2017, the public inquiry finally started in January, and is considering objections from Peel Land & Property, St Modwen Properties and Stockport Metropolitan Borough Council.
The objections are made on the grounds of loss of employment land to retail; a failure to comply with the sequential test for retail sites; a significant adverse impact on nearby town centres; and an unacceptable impact on the highway network and lack of sustainable transport options.
The inquiry was scheduled to take three weeks and is now close to the end of that period, with several expert witnesses still to be heard.
An observer at the inquiry told Place North West: “There’s a lot to be heard – there are planning, highways, employment land and land use issues, all dealt with in segments. It looks very much like they’ll have to reconvene, which logistically could be difficult. But it’s been a very robust process, as it should be.”