Cumbernauld Morrisons store application to be knocked back?

Written by Scott Campbell. Scott Campbell
Published at 12:18 on 12 May 2014.
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Artist's representation of the plans. Picture: Morrisons.

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A PLANNING application, in principle, by Optimisation Developments LTD Smith Design Associates for a brand new Morrisons store in Cumbernauld may be knocked back this time next week, after a council report recommended that the application be refused.

Morrisons confirmed on August 16th, 2012, that they wanted to open a brand new store in Cumbernauld. Thereafter, two consultation events were held at Broadwood Stadium; one on 18th September 2012 and the second event on 19th September 2012.

Members of the public were said to be very supportive of the store chain’s plans; and, on May 18th, 2013, the firm’s principle planning application was received by North Lanarkshire Council. At the time, a target determination date was the project was set at September 21st, 2013, although the scale of the development has forced the application to slow down. 

In the last few weeks however, North Lanarkshire Council confirmed that the firm’s in principle planning application will go before the Planning Hearings committee on May 19th, with a report to the committee recommending that members reject the application on the grounds that it’s out-of-centre.

Justifying the recommendation, the report explains how, “The proposed retail and mixed use developments are not considered acceptable in terms of the principles of the approved Glasgow and the Clyde Valley Strategic Development Plan 2012 or the criteria set out in the relevant policies of the adopted North Lanarkshire Local Plan 2012.  The proposed food store and other mixed use options are of a scale that undermines planning policies directing such development to the Network of Centres and is likely to adversely affect the vitality and viability of the Network of Centres identified for protection under policy RTC1.”

If members stick with the recommendation it could signal the end for any development, which – at present – would include a 58,697 sq. ft Morrisons; a 6 pump Petrol Filling Station; a drive thru and a bar and/or restaurant. The new store alone would create between some 300 and 400 new jobs for the town and revitalise the Westfield area of Cumbernauld.

The council report continues on to explain that: “The proposed retail and mixed use development is not supportive of the principles of the Glasgow and the Clyde Valley Strategic Development Plan 2012… as there is no known need/demand established in the development plan and the supply-side assessment indicates that it represents an unsustainable location in terms of its relationship with the identified network of centres, particularly Cumbernauld Town Centre, Westway Retail Park, Auchenkilns Leisure Park and Craigmarloch Neighbourhood Centre.”

The report justifies its recommendation to reject the store’s in principle application in three points; the first point contends that the store proposals go against the Adopted North Lanarkshire Local Plan 2012 because, “…the scale of the development does not reflect any identified need and it is likely to have an unacceptable adverse impact on the vitality and viability of the existing network of centres “. 

The report adds, “the proposed retail and mixed use development is contrary to policy DSP1 B (Amount of Development: Potential additions to planned land supplies) of the Adopted North Lanarkshire Local Plan 2012 as it would result in an additional retail development on land located outside Cumbernauld Town Centre, which cannot be justified in terms of need or benefit and is likely to undermine the catchment and role of the town centre to the detriment of its vitality and viability.

“The proposed development is contrary to Policy DSP 2 B (Location of Development: Potential additions to planned land supplies) of the Adopted North Lanarkshire Local Plan 2012 as the proposed retail and mixed use development is not consistent with the following DSP2 location criteria 6 (Town Centres) as the proposals would not safeguard the vitality and viability of RTC1 A Centre Network or support their diversification or improve their respective environments.”

It’s not known whether Morrisons would pursue their proposals if councillors rejected their application, in principle, although the business had previously said it was “dedicated to growth in Scotland”.

Back in May 2013, Richard Bakes, development executive for Morrisons, said: “Morrisons is dedicated to growth in Scotland and our ambitious plans for Cumbernauld will benefit the local area in a number of ways.

“The site will provide new, local jobs and enhanced choice for shoppers, whilst we also hope the development will act as a catalyst for further regeneration.”

At a special Planning Hearing meeting on May 19, which will be followed by a special full council meeting, councillors will be able to reject the application or approve it with certain conditions. 

“Whilst the planning report recommends that permission should be refused, it is a matter for the Planning Authority to have regard to the provisions of the development plan, so far as material to the application, and to any other material considerations before taking a decision,” Colin Marshall, the council’s Senior Planning Officer for Major Developments explained.

Colin added: “The Planning Authority may grant planning permission, either unconditionally or subject to conditions as they think fit or they may refuse planning permission.” 

The process through which the proposed development has reached the pinnacle stage of the authority’s planning process has been a long one and comes after a report from January 2014, by Shirley Linton, Head of Planning and Regeneration, to the Planning and Transportation Committee confirmed that the firm’s proposals would be sent to the Planning Hearings committee; the application was, however, never heard at the next Planning Hearings meeting, and it has been suggested that proposals by Tesco to open a third Cumbernauld store, on Condorrat’s Main Road put the decision on hiatus. 

Reacting the announcement, Cumbernauld and Kilsyth MSP, Jamie Hepburn, has said that the recommendation “flies in the face” of local residents – many of whom supported the proposed development.

The Nationalist MSP has called on councillors to support the application, citing the results of a public consultation, which showed that 80 of 83 which were in favour of the development.  The area’s member of Holyrood said that the proposals would support investment in the local area, and referred to his own residents’ survey, which revealed that there was 89 per cent of respondents backed the proposals.

Mr Hepburn also points to the comments of statutory consultee bodies, including Strathclyde Partnership for Transport, Scottish Natural Heritage, Scottish Water, and the Council’s own Roads Department, none of which objected to the development being given the green light.

Mr Hepburn has condemned the report’s conclusions, noting that rejecting the application would prevent the area from benefiting from a jobs boost and improvements to the road network which would result from the development. He has also highlighted concerns about the implications of this decision on any future development in the area.

Mr Hepburn has also highlighted recent decisions by the Council to give the go ahead to supermarkets in Airdrie and Stepps, despite both of those applications also being deemed contrary to the existing development plans. In the Airdrie case the Council choose to ignore the recommendation of the Planning Report in order to grant permission. Mr Hepburn is now calling on them to show similar favourable consideration to this application.

Cumbernauld and Kilsyth SNP MSP, Jamie Hepburn.

The SNP MSP has now called upon councillors to ignore the report’s recommendations, and to support the development proposals.

Commenting, Mr Hepburn said: “This report’s recommendation that this supermarket be refused flies in the face of public opinion and the recommendations of all the statutory bodies consulted, including the Council’s own Roads department.

“The reason given in the report, that it is contrary to the strategic plans in place for this area, have troubling implications.

“They are saying on that this cannot go ahead because it is not in one of their identified centres but they go on to say that none of those identified centres could sustain a development of this sort anyway.

“If this is the case then it rules out not only this development but any such investment throughout the whole of Cumbernauld.

“Essentially they are saying that there could never be a new development of this type in Cumbernauld, which is frankly outrageous.

“The report fails to recognise that Cumbernauld is far bigger than the rest of the towns in the North Lanarkshire Council and as such there is far greater demand for such a development.

“Cumbernauld has the population to support a development such as this without a detrimental impact on the other businesses throughout the town.

“Yet again it appears that North Lanarkshire Council are treating Cumbernauld as an afterthought.

“While this report is disappointing, the responsibility for making this decision lies with the councillors. I would urge them all to support this application.

“I am encouraged by the fact that Councillors have in the recent past chosen to ignore reports recommendations such as this and grant permission. I understand that this is how a supermarket in Airdrie recently secured permission. I would hope that Councillors would be willing to treat Cumbernauld with similar respect and grant permission for this development.”

The area’s MSP added: “If this development is not permitted to go ahead it will be a blow to the area. If councillors are happy to vote this down then they are going to have to explain their actions to a disappointed local community.”

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