CPG Handforth Dean
CPG's scheme planned for Earl Road, Handforth Dean

Troubled Handforth Dean retail applications make it to committee

Jessica Middleton-Pugh

Cheshire East Council’s planning meeting next week will discuss, and potentially reject, proposals from two developers who want to extend shopping and leisure facilities around Handforth Dean Retail Park.

At Earl Road, Consolidated Property Group is proposing to build 240,000 sq ft of retail and leisure, alongside a further four restaurants and three cafes with car parking. Spread across two planning applications, these have both been recommended for refusal by council planning officers, due to hopes that the land could be developed for employment use.

Cheshire East Council owns the 14-acre site, with property development arm Engine of the North selecting CPG as preferred purchaser in 2015, in the knowledge that the plans to be brought forward would be retail-led.

Within the same scheme, CPG has applied to extend a Next store already in place on the site, and add two retail units, and this element is earmarked for approval.

A CPG spokesperson said: “It is good news that Phase 1B is recommended for approval and that all the issues on the main scheme have been addressed, except for the officers’ concern over loss of employment land. This is however a surprise and we  believe the officers’ interpretation of the position is incorrect.

“The applications form part of a phased development. Phase 1, the new Next store, has been successfully  completed and has created many new jobs for local people. We want to build on that success and put the remaining land into productive use.

“The overall scheme, if consented, will  provide a huge financial investment  and a boost for North Cheshire and Handforth, stop significant expenditure leakage  and create over 900 permanent  jobs, over half the council’s annual target. This is in addition to the 400 jobs created during the construction phase. All this on a cleared site that has remained derelict and redundant for over 20 years without any other interest.”

How Planning is advising, alongside architect Leach Rhodes Walker.

Meanwhile, Handforth Dean Retail Park owner Orbit Developments has been fighting since 2015 to get consent to extend the park, with plans to demolish the offices and warehouses on a neighbouring plot to build seven retail units.

The proposals were first rejected in February 2016. Orbit is appealing the decision and a public inquiry is due to take place on Tuesday 13 June. The developer has also resubmitted the application, which is being considered alongside CPG’s application at the planning meeting on 19 April, to allow the council to assess their cumulative impact.

Lichfields represents Orbit.

Orbit said: “We cannot understand why our application has been brought together with this larger scheme. Our proposals are modest and quite straightforward and have been reviewed to the satisfaction of council officers and their consultants, save for one point that relates to employment land designation. This is same use as the council’s land upon which the new Next store has been approved, and recently opened. This, in addition to approvals granted to change nearby business units, on the same land designation, to a gym and trampoline centre.

“The site is adjacent to Handforth Dean Shopping Centre and the new Next and is a natural continuation of the retail offer.  Extensive marketing and speculative construction of offices that have remained vacant for a period of 10 years has failed to bring occupiers to this area.  The land is partially vacant and also contains substandard old warehouse units, which are not suitable for modern use. Planning consent has been granted for their demolition.

“We have prepared extensive reports as to the economic benefits and up to 290 new jobs that would be created by the development, as well as plans for the protection of the seven existing job s in the existing warehouse.

“The application is a re-submission of a previously refused proposal, which is the subject of a planning appeal, which will involve significant time and cost for both ourselves and the Council. We are providing payments to Local Highways/footpath and lighting improvements, recreation and open spaces as well as to the council’s budget for training and investment in employment, totalling in excess of £600,000. Pro-rata this is in excess of the contribution made by the Next scheme, which was of a larger area.”

Orbit contend that our application should be treated in a consistent, equitable, pragmatic and flexible manner, consistent with the new NEXT store and other approvals granted.

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Council invites, and receives, astronomical bids for their land based on retail and leisure development. Council then recommends to refuse applications as they aren’t employment development. So Cheshire East…

By Gene Walker

UPDATE: Comment from Orbit Developments

By Jessica Middleton-Pugh

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