Shropshire Council launches new consultation on revised Rocks Green supermarket application over Christmas

Blackfriars, the speculative developer behind the proposals for a superstore and petrol filling station at Rocks Green has produced new plans. You have until 12 January to respond.

That’s just three weeks, a short period given the holiday season, though longer than the two weeks minimum for reconsultations. You can comment at 14/05573/OUT.

The supermarket has been reduced in size and turned through 90 degrees. The service yard has been moved away from Rocks Green Crescent and the number of car parking spaces has been reduced. Plans for the petrol filling station (PFS) are unchanged.

A new application was expected after the South Planning Committee said it wanted to reject the original application but was blocked by council officers from doing so. Promoter Blackfriars wrote to me in November saying that new plans are on the way and now we have them.


The original plans

The revised plans

The retailed area of the proposed store has been reduced from 2,275 to 1,951 sq metres (from about 24,500 to 21,000 sq ft). I make this a reduction of 14% but Indigo Planning, the consultants working for the scheme promoter Blackfriars, says the reduction is 17%. Indigo has told planners it can reduce the size of the scheme because:

“As you know, we have not signed a named operator, although there is significant interest in the market. Therefore, we have the flexibility to reduce the store size. The retailers showing the most interest have all confirmed that if the store size is reduced… it will still be suitable for them.”

The store has been turned around so that the service yard area is adjacent to the A49, not Rocks Green Crescent as before. This will reduce the noise to residents, though they will still look out on fencing between 3 and 4.35 metres high (10ft to 14ft). Indigo says that the landscaping buffer between the store and the Crescent has been increased. The new plans show more trees on a reduced area for landscaping. Instinctively, I think these trees will be too crowded to thrive.

Indigo says that Blackfriars will agree to deliveries to the store being blocked between school drop off and pick up times. That looks like a plan for early morning deliveries with vehicles reversing into (or out of) Dun Cow Road.

Blackfriars will commit to employing a crossing warden during school travel hours at the roundabout on Dun Cow Road. It will also contribute towards “acceleration strips” [sic] on the A4117. We certainly want traffic on this road to go any faster. I think the company must mean deceleration strips – speed humps to you and me.

The number of car parking spaces has been reduced from 227 to 188 (including staff parking), a 17% reduction. Highways consultants RoyalHaskoningDHV say the proposed reductions in parking spaces and retail floor area will result in 99 fewer two-way traffic movements during the weekday PM peak period and 106 fewer two-way movements during the Saturday peak.

The South Planning Committee had raised concerns that analysis of traffic pressures on the Rocks Green A49 roundabout had not considered a proposed development behind the Nelson Inn. The consultants say the additional traffic associated with this development, which is allocated in SAMDev, will have a “negligible impact upon the operation of the roundabout when considered in conjunction with the foodstore and PFS.” They conclude:

“The combined traffic associated with the proposed development and the SAMDev site has a negligible impact on the A49/A4117 Rocks Green Road/Henley Road roundabout.”

Indigo Planning says the reduced scheme will have a lower impact on Ludlow town centre than the scheme considered by the South Planning Committee. The impact, apparently agreed with Shropshire Council planners, will be £3.68 million less than the original scheme. Indigo says that most of the impact on town centre retail trade will be shouldered by Tesco, with independent traders taking a hit of between 1.2% and 1.6%.

  Trade draw from town centre (£m) Loss of linked trips (£m) Total (£m)
Tesco 5.40 7.4%
Budgens 0.15 0.05-0.15 0.4% – 0.6%
Local shops 0.45 0.05-0.44 1.2% – 1.6%

Indigo makes much of this in the covering letter accompanying the revised application. The company says that the South Planning Committee misunderstood the impact on local shops – I don’t agree with this. I certainly didn’t misunderstand the developer’s case – even though Shropshire Council only published the technical data a few days before the committee meeting (my statement to committee). Indigo continues:

“Only Councillor Boddington expressed concern that Tesco’s dominance of off shopping in Ludlow is being challenged.”

This statement is blatantly incorrect. What I said was:

“I am not worried about Tesco or Aldi losing trade.”

Indigo continues:

“Tesco is well known to be over-trading and will not be undermined by the loss of a relatively limited amount of trade. Indeed, reducing over-trading is likely to improve the shopping experience of people who continue to use the store.”

That’s ill informed. Outside of the queues that build up before public holidays, there is never a problem shopping at Tesco. It can be busy but being busy shows that a store is succeeding.

This is still an outline application, so few specifics are given. Details, such as the final layout and the design of the scheme, will be decided under “reserved matters”, which are usually agreed by planning officers without reference to committee. Supermarket schemes can often change considerably between outline applications and the final permission, particularly when, as in the case of Rocks Green, the promoter has not signed up an operator.