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Friday, January 2, 2009

Day 16 – Job Losses Confirmed in Walton

Mr. Lancaster continued his cross-examination of Mr. Hollis. Mr. Lancaster concentrated on the impact on the St Modwen development at Skelmersdale if Destination Kirkby were to receive approval from the Secretary of State. Mr Hollis suggested that whilst there was little real evidence that Destination Kirkby would have an effect on Skelmersdale, there was a concern, shared by St Modwen, that the economic downturn in the housing market would have a serious effect on a development with a heavy reliance on housing, as in the case of Skelmersdale; he explained that it was unreasonable to suggest that the Kirkby proposal would have a detrimental impact on Skelmersdale.

Mr. Hollis reiterated that the Secretary of State would need to consider which development is the more likely to be delivered, his opinion was that if Kirkby was refused neither would be delivered.

Kirkby and Skelmersdale are of comparable size; both have populations of approximately 40,000. Mr. Hollis agreed that the proposed Tesco store at Kirkby was twice that proposed for Skelmersdale but pointed out that would be the second in that town whilst Kirkby had been without a store for thirty years. Mr. Hollis obviously preferred not to take into account the remoteness of Skelmersdale against the close proximity of Kirkby to major stores at nearby Switch Island, Huyton, Prescot or the existing Somerfield store in the Town Centre when offering this considered opinion.

Mr Lancaster enquired about the impact of Everton relocating from Walton, he asked for the figures that would tell him how many jobs would be lost. Mr Hollis replied, “Using one method you get 137 and by using another you get 301, it depended on which multiplier you use.” Mr Lancaster continued, “So, ONLY 137 jobs lost, from pubs and cafes? Come on, if Everton move tomorrow how many people will lose their livelihoods?” Mr Hollis explained, “Yes some retailers would lose trade but I don't have the figures.”

Mr Lancaster informed the inspector that the inquiry needed those figures to be supplied; if they weren't he would be making a submission to the Secretary of State. He explained, “clearly there would be jobs lost, you can't move a football club and not have an impact on the people who sell food and drink around the ground.”

Anyone wondering why the applicants had continually portrayed Kirkby in such a bad light was given the explanation when, in answer to Mrs Burden's concerns surrounding the scale of the proposed development in relation to the role and function of a town centre, Mr Hollis explained that, in his opinion, the exceptional circumstances surrounding deprivation and this unique opportunity is made reference to in the Regional Spatial Strategy.

Mr Hollis perhaps pushed his enthusiasm a tad too far when he claimed that the Secretary of State had expressed encouragement for investment in areas with “significant deprivation” Regular readers of this site will remember that in March 2008 the Secretary of State had rejected the inclusion of Key Service Centres in the revised version of the Regional Spatial Strategy, stating:

“In considering proposals and schemes any investment made should be consistent with the scale and function of the centre, should not undermine the vitality and viability of any other centre or result in the creation of unsustainable shopping patterns” and went on to say “There should also be a presumption against large-scale extensions to such facilities unless they are fully justified in line with the sequential approach established in PPS6. There is no justification for such facilities to be designated as town centres within plans and strategies” and “Comparison retailing facilities should be enhanced and encouraged in the following centres to ensure a sustainable distribution of high quality retail facilities.

  • Altrincham, Ashton-under-Lyne, Barrow-in-Furness,
  • Birkenhead, Blackburn, Blackpool,
  • Bolton, Burnley, Bury
  • Carlisle, Chester, Crewe,
  • Kendal, Lancaster, Macclesfield,
  • Northwich, Oldham, Preston,
  • Rochdale, Southport, St Helens,
  • Stockport,Warrington, Wigan,
  • Workington / Whitehaven.

It should be noted that the inclusion of Kirkby in the above list was declined, the Secretary of State went on to say:

“Investment, of an appropriate scale, in centres not identified above will be encouraged in order to maintain and enhance their vitality and viability, including investment to underpin wider regeneration initiatives, to ensure that centres meet the needs of the local community, as identified by Local Authorities. Retail development that supports entrepreneurship, particularly increasing the number of independent retailers, should be supported. There will be a presumption against new out-of-centre regional or sub-regional comparison retailing facilities requiring Local Authorities to be pro-active in identifying and creating opportunities for development within town centres. There should also be a presumption against large-scale extensions to such facilities unless they are fully justified in line with the sequential approach established in PPS6. There is no justification for such facilities to be designated as town centres within plans and strategies.”

Mrs Burden then asked for a clarification on what Mr Hollis was attempting to say in relation to the Regional Spatial Strategy when he suggested a more ambitious approach be taken. Mr Hollis explained that the Secretary of State had made several references to the need to encourage investment in areas of significant deprivation.

Understandably, after reading the above, Mrs Burden has asked that the inquiry be provided with evidence of quantitative need for the scale of this proposed retail development in the township of Kirkby and an impact assessment on the forecast growth in line with the current economic situation.

The inquiry will reconvene on Tuesday 6th January 2009.

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