The proposal diversifies the existing retail complex, effectively doubling the size of the existing enterprise. The garden centre will create an additional floor space of 595sqm and the new retail units a further 644sqm of floor space.
Aitchison Raffety’s instruction was to prepare a Sequential Impact Assessment to support the proposal. It found that locationally there were no other suitable premises available and the proposal was supported by rural economic policies within the Core Strategy. The Planning Authority then requested a full Retail Impact Assessment be undertaken to assess existing employment sites on the edge of the town.
Aitchison Raffety responded arguing that not only would employment sites be contrary to the Council’s own policies, but that it would be unreasonable for them to expect existing retailers to disaggregate themselves from their current premises into the Town Centre; particularly when there was policy support for rural businesses within the Development Plan. Aitchison Raffety bolstered the client’s position with a range of case law judgments setting out the correct approach to sequential retail assessments.
Upon the Council’s request, and despite having paid the relevant application fee, the applicant chose to pay for an independent review. Whilst that review expressed some concerns, the Council accepted that the ‘independent’ reviewer had not taken into account key evidence presented by Aitchison Raffety. The Council also accepted that the proposal would not have a detrimental impact on the Town Centre. This was given the niche market of the business model, and that the garden centre was not a town centre use; being a use expected to be located within the rural area.
Planning permission was subsequently granted by members of the planning committee.
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