ACCRINGTON’s town centre masterplan – including a £15M Sainsbury’s superstore in the Arndale Centre – could be jeopardised if an expansion of the out-of-town Whitebirk retail park is allowed, a public planning inquiry heard.
Arndale Centre asset manager Ray James told the Scaitcliffe House inquiry that, if permitted, the Peel Holdings proposal would have “a detrimental effect on the ability of our company to help revitalise Accrington town centre”.
Mr James was speaking on the sixth and final day of the appeal into Hyndburn Council’s refusal to allow four units at the retail park, on the Hyndburn-Blackburn border, to sell soft goods such as clothes and food.
Supermarket giant Sain-sbury’s is considering submitting plans for an 80,000 sq ft store at the rear of the Broadway shopping complex.
But Roger Lancaster, representing Peel Holdings, asked Mr James why owners Protego Real Estate Investors bought the Arndale site in 2005, knowing that the Whitebirk proposals had at that stage been recommended by planning officers.
Mr James replied: “My colleagues were of the view that Whitebirk would not receive planning permission.”
He admitted that the superstore proposals were in a “slightly embryonic state”, following criticism from Mr Lancaster that the outline plans could leave existing tenants without car parking.
But he added: “It will be giving the centre an anchor, which it requires. Then we can take the centre on to the next stage.”
Peel Holdings investors have said they are willing to contribute £500,000 to the town centre masterplan if the Whitebirk application goes ahead, but Hyndburn Chamber of Trade has backed the Arndale development.
Earlier, planning inspector Andrew Pykett had detailed 28 conditions that could be imposed in the event of permission being granted.
Peel spokesman Nick Lee requested a definitive list of prohibited retail items at the remaining units – such as clothes, shoes, food and fashion accessories.
But Hyndburn chief planning officer Brent Clarkson argued this approach could lead to an effective relaxation of restrictions through the omission and evolution of certain items.
Mr Clarkson said: “Our feeling is that the whole of Peel’s submission is based on the fact that no changes are proposed other than these four units. We’re concerned that this list which Mr Lee has produced is not necessarily exhaustive.”
The inspector, who visited the site, has indicated that his decision could be given by the week beginning 16 June.