At a tense meeting planning meeting last night (Nov 24th) the application at the old Park School site for a “neighbourhood centre” (which mainly consists of an Asda supermarket) was refused by 12 votes to 9. Chris moved refusal, and Ron seconded him.
In the past weeks and months we received a lot of emails from residents about the scheme. Most of the people who contacted us (perhaps 60%) were against the application, but quite a lot were in favour and we had to bear everybody’s viewpoint in mind when trying to decide how to vote on this. To ensure we didn’t miss anything, we went into Rochford on Wednesday to read through all the correspondence that had been sent sent directly to the council.
Asda will probably now appeal to a government inspector. If you were in favour of the scheme, you are probably going to be disappointed with us, but we hope you will understand our reasoning.
What reasons did we give for refusal ?
None of the amenities people were expecting – except shops and a cafe-
According to the outline planning permission on this site, passed in 2002, this is supposed to be a neighbourhood centre, with a range of uses valuable to the local community. But all we are sure of getting is a supermarket, some small shops and a cafe. No doctors surgery – we found out this week (the council officers did’nt tell us) that Audley Mills were getting close to establishing a medical facility on part of the site – not just a GPs surgery, but perhaps some other facilities as well – until the developers changed their minds and did a deal with Asda. There’s not much scope for a nursery or pre-school playgroup either – not on the first floor above some shops, with no garden or outdoor area.
By the time Asda sent us their last glossy brochure , they were calling it a “Neighbourhood Shopping Centre” , which summed things up pretty frankly.Why is Downhall School one of the few schools used a a polling station on election days? Because we are one of the few parts of the district without some kind of public hall or similar building.
Too Much Traffic
According to the outline planning permission , we should be expecting about 200 car movements each evening between 1700-1800 hrs each evening from the whole Park School site – houses, sports centre, school and neighbourhood centre But according to Asda’s own consultants (and our planning officers didn’t include this in the report) they expect about 450 from Asda alone and 650 from the whole site.!
Damaging the Town Centre
If it does comply with the outline planning permission we aren’t supposed to consider the effect on other shops (we would be assumed to have done that in 2002 – although nobody at that time thought that any shops here would be big enough to affect any other shops). But we felt it doesn’t comply, and think it would damage the vitality and viablity of the High Street and Hambro Parade. There’s a council policy to deal with that.
What will happen now? Asda will probably go to appeal. But what we would like to see is a smaller shop that is still useful for local people, but doesn’t damage shops elsewhere, leaves room for medical facilities or other amenities and doesn’t create too much traffic