Objectors to Mytholm Works supermarket plan can learn from refusal of Asda appeal

The Planning Inspector has decided to refuse the appeal against a decision to refuse planning permission for a supermarket at Hope Street, Halifax Road Todmorden. He gave two reasons for this decision.

Here is the Planning Inspector’s ASDA decision (downloadable PDF file).

Significant damage to town centre vitality and viability, and to Tod’s role as a market town

The Planning Inspector concluded that the proposed supermarket

“would have a significant adverse impact on the vitality and viability of Todmorden Town Centre, its role as a market town and committed and planned public and private investment within the centre”and said that the benefits of the scheme “do not in my view outweigh this harm.” This means that “The proposal would therefore be in conflict with Policies S2 B iii)and GS1 of the Replacement Calderdale Unitary Development Plan 2006 and paragraphs 26 and 27 of the Framework.”

Fails the sequential test – too far away from town centre and public transport links

He also concluded that “the proposal could be located on a sequentially more preferable site. Paragraph 27 of the Framework says that where an application fails to satisfy the sequential test or is likely to have a significant adverse impact on one or more of the above factors, then it should be refused.”

The sequential test is based on the planning principle that, wherever possible, new development should be sited within existing defined centres, or failing that, on well located sites on the edge of existing defined centres. “Well connected edge of centre sites are likely to be the most readily accessible locations by alternative means of transport and will be centrally placed to serve the catchment, thereby reducing the need to travel.”

Putting developments within or on the edge of existing defined centres also makes it much more likely that shoppers will make linked trips between the proposed supermarket and other businesses in the Town Centre. But putting the supermarket on the Hope St/Halifax Road site makes linked trips unlikely.

In the case of this proposed supermarket, applying the sequential test means that the Burnley Road site would meet this planning requirement, since it’s opposite the town’s bus station and close to town centre shops. But the proposed Hope St/Halifax Road site doesn’t.

Maybe the same reasons can be used against the proposed supermarket at the Mytholm Works/Brown’s site

Reading the Inspector’s report, one of his main the reasons for refusing the Tod Asda supermarket appeal is that he decided that the damage the proposed supermarket would cause to the viability and vitality of the town centre outweighed its potential benefits.

These benefits include:

  • improved choice, competition and the quality of the convenience retail offer of Todmorden, thereby clawing back some of the expenditure that is lost to other destinations
  • attracting more trade to Todmorden from the wider catchment area
  • improving the “bleak and unattractive” appearance of the derelict site, by reclaiming and restoring derelict and degraded land
  • creating more jobs than the employment target for this site

Why the benefits are not as great as they first seem

As well as deciding that improvements to the “convenience retail offer” would not outweigh the harm that the proposed supermarket would cause for the vitality and viability of the town centre, the Planning Inspector also noted factors that weakened the other benefits of the scheme.

He said that it would be possible to regenerate the site with a mixed-use scheme that has little retail content; so this reduces the weight which he would otherwise give to the benefit of restoring the derelict and degraded site.

In relation to job creation, he said that the proposed supermarket, “in diverting trade away from existing retail outlets in Todmorden, would result in job reductions elsewhere, so that the overall benefit would not be as great as first appearances suggest”.

Inadequate and misleading information from the developers about the impact on town centre businesses

The Planning Inspector said that he had concerns about the developer’s figures for turnover/market share.

He also had concerns about the catchment area used for the supermarket, since he said that “large parts of the outer zones are clearly parts of the catchment areas of higher order competing centres. Some of these have existing stores, including a number of Asdas that are larger than the appeal proposal would be, and sited in more accessible locations to some of their populations than the appeal site is.” This means that it’s unlikely that shoppers from these parts of the catchment area would actually use the proposed Asda supermarket in Tod. In turn, this means that to achieve the predicted turnover/market share, the supermarket would have to take more trade than developers predicted from existing Tod businesses, including those in Tod town centre. Using this large catchment area allowed the developers to present an underestimate of the impact of the proposed supermarket on retail outlets in the town, including in Tod town centre.

There were defects in the Appellants’ household shopping questionnaire.

There were false assumptions in the Appellant’s estimate of the impact of the proposed Asda on the Lidl discount supermarket and on shops which are complementary to Lidl in the Town Centre. This led to an underestimate of the impact on Lidl. Combined with other inaccuracies in the Appellants data, this also led to an underestimate of the impact on the Town Centre.

The developers’ retail evidence was flawed. If accepted at face value, it minimises the impact on Tod market – particularly on the sale of basic fresh food, and on Lidl. In fact, because the retail evidence is flawed, the impact of the proposed development on Tod market and on Lidl would be very damaging.

The proposed supermarket would create excess retail capacity in Calderdale

A 2009 Calderdale Retail Needs Assessment found that there would only be about £7m surplus expenditure in 2015 in Calderdale. But the proposed Tod Asda would have a turnover in 2015 of £19.17m. This means it would suck up more than twice the shortfall in capacity in Calderdale. This would lead to “notable reductions in turnover across all convenience shops in Todmorden.” It would also affect Morrisons and Lidl and lead to them cutting prices. The supermarkets can take this price hit, but independent traders like those in the Town Centre can’t. This would cause further damage to existing town centre businesses.

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