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Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Tesco/Everton development proposal dealt severe blow by Secretary of State

Unlikely to be reported with much gusto in the Daily Post or that Tesco/Everton FC press release journal the Liverpool Echo, the attempt by Tesco, reliant on a crucial assumption within the Retail Assessment of their planning application, to promote Kirkby’s position within the settlements and retail hierarchies of the North West Region, has been given short thrift by the Secretary of State.

The North West Regional Spatial Strategy (RSS) provides a framework for development and investment in the region over the next fifteen to twenty years. It is part of the statutory development plan for every local authority in the North West.

The North West Regional Assembly published the Submitted Draft Regional Spatial Strategy for the North West of England (the North West Plan) in January 2006. An Independent Panel held an Examination in Public about the draft Plan between November 2006 and February 2007, and their report setting out recommendations to change the draft Plan was published in May 2007. The Secretary of State has now considered the Panel report and has published the proposed changes to the draft Plan for final consultation.

It is these changes to the RSS proposed by the Examination in Public Panel (EIP Panel) and the Secretary of State's decisions on each of the EIP Panel's recommendations, that will prove a huge struggle for the Tesco application to overcome. To put the above into context and to clearly show that the Tesco assumption regarding changes being made to policy within the RSS that would assist their aim of promoting Kirkby's standing within the settlements and retail hierarchies was fatally flawed, the following paragraphs are taken verbatim from the Retail Assessment of the Tesco planning application;

2.21 The draft RSS seeks to ensure the renaissance of major conurbations, traditional industrial towns and urban communities continues. Table 7.1 sets out the proposed settlement hierarchy with regional centres, regional towns and cities, and key service centres (KSC's). Kirkby was not included in the settlement hierarchy despite having similar characteristics of a number of the regional towns/cities identified. Notwithstanding this the EIP Panel Report (May 2007) was strongly critical of the lack of analysis to assess which KSC's existed in metropolitan areas.

6.30 The emerging RSS includes a settlement hierarchy (Table 7.1) which came under heavy criticism from the EIP Panel who concluded that they ‘had no choice but to try to make something of the fundamentally flawed framework.' They recommended that the hierarchy issue required early review and that whilst it was appropriate to have Table 7.1 in the RSS ‘it is not possible to arrive at a consistent and useful list covering the whole region at present' (paragraph 4.85, Panel Report). The draft IPS prepared by Knowsley to guide future redevelopment of Kirkby town centre (October 2007) highlights that Kirkby has similarities with a number of identified regional towns and cities in the settlement hierarchy."

7.5 The proposed retail element is appropriate in terms of scale in that it would not alterthe function of the Kirkby as a ‘town centre' in the wider retail hierarchy. So far as the emerging RSS is concerned, the Panel Report strongly recommends that the whole question of retail and settlement hierarchy be revisited in an early review and that the emerging RSS is not complete in this respect."

2.38 The IPS reviews the planning policy framework for the town centre and in relation to the emerging RSS concludes that so far as the settlement hierarchy is concerned (Table 7.1) Kirkby has similarities with a number of regional towns such as Skelmersdale, Runcorn and Ellesmere Port and that the Council's aspirations to regenerate the town centre are supported by Policy W5 (paragraph 2.5 of draft IPS).

2.26 Consequently, we consider that limited weight can be placed on the settlement hierarchy in the RSS. Once approved by the Secretary of State, it is clear that the whole question of retail hierarchy and settlement hierarchy will be the subject of early review. (Tesco planning application, November 2007.)

The document that details the Secretary of State's decisions on each of the EIP Panel's recommendations (published in March 2008), shows Tesco's assumption that “it is clear that the whole question of retail hierarchy and settlement hierarchy will be the subject of early review,” to have been flawed. In fact, the EIP panel did not even recommend that "the whole question of retail hierarchy and settlement hierarchy" should be the subject of early review. Whilst they did recommend a partial review concerning 'Key Service Centres' (KSC's) and also an amendment to 'Table 7.1' which sets out the proposed settlement hierarchy, the Secretary of State rejected both EIP panel recommendations;

Secretary of State's Decisions on the Recommendations of the Panel appointed to conduct the Examination in Public.

Summary Panel Recommendations;

Carry out partial review of RSS as soon as possible and publish not later than 2009. To cover rolling the strategy forward; housing policy / Housing Market Areas (HMAs); Key Service Centres (KSCs); waste policies; renewable energy policies; and accommodation for gypsies and travellers.

Secretary of State's Decision;

Accept the need for partial review and roll forward of housing, waste and energy policies as a matter of urgency.

Reject the need for partial review to address the issue of KSCs.

Reasons for Decision;

We do not consider it appropriate to name KSCs in a strategic regional document (The RSS) and prefer to list criteria for LDFs to define them. We see no benefit in extending the concept to service centres in urban areas and believe that this creates confusion as to their role and purpose.

The EIP Panel recommended to the Secretary of State that KSCs should be also be defined in the former Metropolitan County areas. A recommendation that Tesco were banking on in order to promote Kirkby. The Secretary of State declined;

Secretary of State's Decision;

Whilst the concept of KSCs is important in the rural context we do not consider it the role of a regional strategy to define them. An understanding of the settlement hierarchy is important to inform decision making about growth priorities but these are different concerns and should not be confused. We are anxious also to avoid confusion with the hierarchy of centres in policy W5.

We do not consider that extending the concept of KSCs to urban areas adds value in the context of a regional strategy.

In regard to the panel recommendation to amend Table 7.1, another Tesco banker, the Secretary of State once again disagrees and in fact, to avoid confusion and any duplication with the key policy hierarchy of centres (policy W5; Retail Development) has deleted Table 7.1 from the RSS;

Secretary of State's Decision;

Disagree. Delete Table 7.1.

The inclusion of table 7.1 leads to confusion, particularly given that RDF1 now clearly articulates prioritisations in the region and W5 outlines the retail hierarchy.

As well as detailing the Secretary of State's decisions on each of the EIP Panel's recommendations, the document sets out the modified text of the North West Regional Spatial Strategy, incorporating amongst others, the relevant above mentioned key policy;

Policy W5; Retail Development;

Plans and strategies should promote retail investment where it assists in the regeneration and economic growth of the North West's town and city centres.

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.

Manchester/Salford and Liverpool City Centres will continue to function as the North West 's primary retail centres.

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.

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.

KEIOC have also learned that included within an as yet unpublished report jointly commissioned by St Helens and Sefton Councils, the independant authors have found that “The Tesco sequential approach is flawed on the grounds of an inappropriate scale of development in relation to the role and function of the centre.”

Tesco's attempts to change the RSS have seemingly failed, and the inclusion of Policy W5; Retail Development within the North West RSS, only serves to strengthen the multiplying obstacles the Tesco planning application, the Knowsley Planners and inevitably the board of Everton FC now face.

As always KEIOC will endeavour to keep all Evertonians informed and updated on all relevant developments. Keep offering your support and visiting the new website for regular updates.


Representations about the Secretary of State's Proposed Changes to the draft RSS are invited and must be received by the Government Office for the North West before 4pm on Friday 23 May 2008.

Ministers will give careful consideration to the consultation responses before finalising the Regional Spatial Strategy. It is anticipated that the final version of the Regional Spatial Strategy will be published in mid 2008.

The Proposed Changes Report and the accompanying documents can be viewed and downloaded from the Government Office for the North West website at

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