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Friday, April 11, 2008

Local Authorities Await Knowsley MBC Retail Report

Knowsley Council All surrounding Councils have been given leave to await the publication of the advice from the retail consultants commissioned by Knowsley MBC before commenting/objecting formally on the Tesco/EFC proposals for Kirkby town centre.

KEIOC, through our contact at KMBC, have learned that Knowsley MBC have commissioned the consultants Roger Tym & Partners to assess the retail element of the Tesco planning application. The results of this assessment are not known at present, but will be made available to neighbouring Council's in due course. A West Lancs'  District Council planning committee document, dated 13 March 2008, reveals the grounds on which the council will object to the Tesco planning application - "subject to further consideration of our objections upon receipt of the retail study Knowsley have commissioned into this matter." These include the proposed scale of retail development and impact upon West Lancs' centres, traffic impacts of the proposed stadium and contravention of the Local Development Plan. 

Further grounds for objections concern the premature nature of the use of an IPS, a non-statutory document, the disproportionate amount of retail floorspace in relation to Kirkby's size and position in the retail hierarchy for the North West as set out in the emerging Regional Spatial Strategy and the proposed use of land designated as ‘urban greenspace and educational land' within the Knowsley Council UDP.

In December 2007, West Lancs' Council objected to the IPS (Vision for Kirkby) due to amongst other issues the scale of proposed retail development;

West Lancs' District Council planning committee report, dated 13 March 2008:

3.3 The draft IPS sets out a range of land uses within the centre, including sites for further retail development and the 55,000 seat football stadium. Whilst it does not make clear the scale of retail to be proposed, this is set out in an accompanying Retail Evidence Base Report, prepared for the Council by DTZ consultants. This report makes it clear that the retail proposals consist of 43,000m2 (503,000 ft2) of gross new retail floorspace, which includes a 15,000m2 Tesco store.

3.4 The District Council submitted comments to Knowsley MBC in December 2007, expressing reservations about the scale of retail proposed, traffic related issues arising from the stadium, and the fact that the proposals were to be in advance of Knowsley's emerging LDF. (These comments were reported to, and agreed by, Planning Committee in December 2007.)

On receipt of the Tesco planning application it is clear that West Lancs' District Council were amazed to discover that the total retail floorspace now proposed for Kirkby was more than twice the amount suggested in the IPS;

5.2 However, the retail proposals submitted in the January planning application are of a significant scale and could have a negative impact upon regeneration efforts in West Lancashire. The amount of retail floorspace proposed in the planning application is significantly greater than the amounts suggested in the Interim Planning Statement (as reported to Planning Committee in December). The proposed floorspace for the foodstore is 21,705m2 (compared with a notional value of 15,000m2 in the IPS, and approximately 8,000m2 for the current Asda store in Skelmersdale Town Centre). The total retail floorspace proposed for Kirkby is 90,494m2, more than twice the notional figure of 43,000m2 suggested by the IPS, and almost three times the
33,440m2 which was suggested as being appropriate for Skelmersdale by St Modwen in their tender.

5.3 We had significant reservations regarding the retail study accompanying the IPS in December 2007, considering that the predicted capacity for new retail development in Kirkby was an overestimate. The proposals submitted in the planning application are more than double the magnitude. It is very doubtful
that the market would support the scale of development implied in the IPS, let alone the planning application, and proposed development of this scale could harm the willingness of investors to invest in other nearby centres.

5.4 Such retail development in Kirkby could draw from West Lancashire, and could also draw expenditure from other areas (such as the fringes of St Helens) which could otherwise be drawn to Skelmersdale. The amount of
floorspace proposed is considered disproportionate to a retail centre of Kirkby's size and position in the retail hierarchy for the North West as set out in the emerging Regional Spatial Strategy.

5.5 I am aware that Lancashire County Council have commented that the retail element of any regeneration proposal should not have a significant adverse impact on the vitality and viability of any retail centres in Lancashire and that the extent of any impact would need to be the subject of a detailed Retail Impact Assessment. I understand that St Helens and Sefton Council also have concerns about the retail aspects of the proposed scheme. These Councils have been given leave to await the publication of the advice from the
retail consultants commissioned by Knowsley MBC before commenting formally on the application. I propose that we do the same.

Concerning the traffic impacts of the proposed stadium, it seems West Lancs' Council is in agreement with the growing number of Evertonians that attempting to travel to Kirkby will not be as straightforward as travelling to Goodison Park;

5.6 In terms of the football stadium, there could be issues relating to possible traffic impacts through West Lancashire, with the main road to Kirkby being Prescot Road, in Aughton, which is flanked by residential properties through the built up area and which is fairly narrow and twisting through the rural area. The public transport from West Lancashire to Kirkby is not currently very good and to take the train to any new stadium would not be as straightforward as to Goodison Park at present. This could encourage more people from this area to drive to matches using Prescot Road, and with a larger stadium even more journeys could be created. Rat running could also be encouraged through the rural areas of Bickerstaffe and Simonswood.

The KEIOC group understand that the report commissioned by Knowsley MBC to assess the retail element of the Tesco planning application will be received by all the neighbouring local authorities within the next week. This assessment, alongside another seperate independent report into the impact of the Tesco proposal commissioned jointly by Sefton and St Helens Council's, will be considered and included in the imminent objections expected by Knowsley Council from the surrounding local authorities.

As always, KEIOC will endeavour to keep all Evertonians informed of the ongoing and relevant developments.

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