Minister says no to supermarket plans

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PLANS for a new supermarket on the A6 south of Lancaster have been thrown out by a leading government minister.

A public inquiry was held in March after Commercial Estates Projects (CEP) appealed against Lancaster City Council’s decision to refuse it permission for a 7,250 sq metre store on fields north of the former Lancaster Garages site.

Eric Pickles, the secretary of state for communities and local government, last Thursday refused the appeal following a recommendation by the inquiry inspector, Michael Hurley.

CEP, which bought the land from farmer David Townley, said all “Big Four” supermarkets had expressed an interest in the proposed 24-hour store.

But Lancaster City Council rejected its plans in May 2011, while at the same time giving Booths permission for a smaller store on council-owned land next door at Lawson’s Bridge. Councillors decided that the CEP scheme would generate too much traffic, despite the firm’s offer of £2m for local transport improvements. And Mr Hurley agreed with them, even after CEP scaled back the proposed scheme last November, removing a hotel, pub/restaurant and petrol station.

His report argues that the need for more shopping facilities south of the city would be eased by the new Booths store and a new 5,000 sqm food store as part of city centre shopping facilities proposed by Centros.

A letter accompanying Mr Hurley’s report said that the CEP proposal could “adversely affect” investment into 
Centros’ £100m retail-led scheme.

Potential congestion on the A6, where a new science park is also planned, and the impact on the landscape, including the loss of protected trees, are also identified as problems.

Coun Keith Budden, chairman of the council’s planning committee, said: “I very much welcome this decision which totally vindicates the city council’s position and clearly demonstrates that the decision the council made on this planning application was a well informed and fair one. We can now continue with the task of properly planning the future of this key area of 
Lancaster.”

Steve McBurney, on behalf of CEP, said: “We are disappointed by the decision. Our proposal would have provided south Lancaster’s residents with greater shopping choice, competition and lower prices, as well as delivering a multi-million pound investment into the city, creating 400 jobs and reducing car journeys across the city centre and River Lune.

“We are currently reviewing the appeal decision and considering our options.”

CEP has six weeks in which to decide whether to challenge the decision in the High Court.

In January, CEP announced it was seeking a judicial review into the council’s decision to grant permission for the Booths store.

The council said CEP’s application for judicial review was still scheduled to be heard later this year.