Clowes Developments has said it is “surprised and disappointed” after Cheshire East planners recommended its retail project in Crewe for refusal for a second time, citing a lack of engagement from the council.
Clowes Developments (North West), working with architect Corstorphine + Wright and planning consultancy Plan A, has submitted a hybrid application for the 8.9-acre site at Mill Street and Lockitt Street, seeking detailed consent for retail and outline consent for up to 70 homes.
The site is currently occupied by single-storey industrial buildings, sitting next to and behind a Wickes store, with the developer proposing the retail parking to front Mill Street behind a landscaped verge, with the retail behind that and the housing to the site’s rear, close to the railway lines that bound the site. A mixed-use proposal was approved in outline for the site in 2013.
As with the 2018 application, the proposal includes two retail units, with Lidl and B&M lined up to occupy 24,000 sq ft and 23,000 sq ft respectively, and a drive-thru coffee shop. To this has been added a tree-lined route through the residential area and more landscaping.
Among the reasons given for refusal last year were the proposals’ design and access between the railway station and town centre. Changes made to the scheme include a re-siting of the coffee shop, design changes to reflect railway heritage in the retail units, which now feature a canopy supported by timber arches along the front, and increasing the affordable element of the housing from 30% to 100% affordable, with Trafford Housing Trust lined up as partner. The make-up of the residential element has changed from mixed housing to 60 apartments in three blocks and 10 townhouses. The plans in general were positively received at consultation.
Despite the changes, planning officers described the proposals as “car-dominated,“ and not making any reference to the existing character and heritage of the area. Officers noted that while the proposal is a “slight improvement,” the pockets of landscaping offer “little useful open space,” with the space in the residential part failing to meet the minimum set out in its Local Plan. Although the drive-thru coffee shop is relocated, officers believe that the site will be dominated by parked cars, not offering the permeability between the station, town centre and Grand Junction retail park that the local authority desires.
One of the key areas of contention is the Mill Street frontage. The applicant’s view is that customers don’t want to park out of view behind stores, but the council wants a more active frontage and suggested a reconfiguration of the site in pre-application discussions. Officers also record concerns over the increased volume of housing and queried the need for a coffee shop.
A spokesman for Clowes Developments (North West) said: “We’re surprised and disappointed that Cheshire East Council officers are recommending refusal of our planning application for a retail and 100% affordable housing development on derelict land at Mill Street. Our proposed development is in line with Cheshire East’s Local Plan, which allocates the site for precisely the type of development we have applied for.
“We believe that there is significant local support for our proposals, and Crewe Town Council has also suggested that it is minded to support the proposal subject to a number of minor changes. Following this feedback, we contacted Cheshire East Council to state that we are preparing revised plans and to request a meeting to discuss the amendments suggested by the Town Council. That meeting has not happened, nor is it scheduled to happen, despite our request. Instead, the Council is pushing this to planning committee with a recommendation to refuse.”
The committee meets on Wednesday 9 January.