Plans for a Sainsbury’s supermarket at Meols Cop retail park in Southport were last night deferred until 31 July by Sefton’s planning committee, following late representations.
The proposals had been recommended for approval, subject to referral to the Secretary of State, at what has for some time been a contentious site. The plot concerned already has a consent in place, approval being granted following a public inquiry in 2016. However Sainsbury’s, in line with a cross-market downward shift in store sizes, announced plans last year to scale down the store.
The new proposal, designed by Hadfield Cawkwell Davidson for Sainsbury’s and UBS, puts forward a store with a net internal sales area of 50,600 sq ft, along a filling station. The current consent allows a 60,000 sq ft store, with the retail floorspace raised on stilts with parking beneath. In either event, the project includes the demolition of three units at Meols Cop.
Sainsbury’s change of plan has reignited opposition to development. The first of four late representations came from Asda, which, with the proposed merger between the two retail giants now cancelled, is objecting. Ada occupies a store at Central 12 Shopping Park in the town centre and warns of the “impact it would have upon what is already a vulnerable town centre”. Asda cites a vacancy rate that has climbed from 13.1^ in 2015 to 18% this year.
In addition, it points out that little weight should be given to Sainsbury’s fallback position of building out the existing consent, claiming that “it appears unlikely that Sainsbury’s would actually build and trade from the store previously approved”.
Cllr Tony Dawson also made a representation opposing the scheme as a whole. His view is that with Debenham’s departing, the Sainsbury’s store on Lord Street is now the “only draw” of scale in the area, and that smaller traders rely on it as a footfall generator.
Savills, representing Sainsbury’s, provided a representation in response to the above claims and that of Southport & Windsor Properties covering matters such as the sequential test and its application at Central 12, describing the assertion by both SWP and Asda that the fallback store is not viable as “erroneous”.
Savills seeks to reaffirm that Central 12 is not able to realistically accommodate the proposed development in any reasonable timescale; and that the “keep-open” clause attached to the original consent is fair – the grocer was obliged by the original consent to keep Lord Street open for five years, a condition that officers have also attached to the current application
The professional team for Sainsbury’s also includes Todd & Ledson as cost consultant, Vectos on transport and Aspect Landscape Planning, Sefton is advised by Nexus.