Shropshire Council has begun a new consultation on plans for a supermarket at Dun Cow, Rocks Green. This is a result of changes to the plans for the proposed petrol station and a revised retail statement.
This is a controversial application. I can’t take a final view on it until we have the evidence right. I can’t see that new retail statement gets us any further on with understanding the potential impact of this project on existing stores in the town centre.
The revised plans for the petrol filling station move the storage tanks above ground at the loss of staff car parking. No information has been published on how safe the fuel storage tanks will be.
Highways England have withdrawn their original objection to this scheme. I think that if the agency had been told by Shropshire Council that 200 homes are planned right opposite the supermarket site before 2026, it might have taken a different view.
New petrol station plans lack safety assessment
The promoters of this scheme have not submitted a revised planning statement, so I am working from a newly published layout plan of the site. This shows that the developer intends to ditch sixteen staff car parking spaces to make room for petrol and diesel storage tanks above ground. Previously the tanks were to be located below ground.
This change follows objections from the Environmental Agency, which was concerned that leakage from the tanks could contaminate water supplies. The same solution has been approved for the Bromfield Road petrol station after a submission of evidence that showed the above ground fuel tanks would be virtually bomb and leak proof. We need similar assurances for Rocks Green.
We are told that the northeast side of the tanks will be screened with a 2.7m high acoustic fence. On the southwest car park side, there will be 2.7m screening. I don’t know why these fences differ.
Petrol and diesel are dangerous materials. We need to know much more about the safety of these tanks. If they were to be breached or leak, the groundwater in Ludlow could be irrevocably contaminated. This petrol station is right next door to a major housing development. There cannot be the slightest risk to safety. We need much more detail on this change to the plans.
I think it is wrong that Shropshire Council has begun a time-limited reconsultation without published sufficient information for the public to make a judgement on the new plans. It will also be important to see the Environmental Agency’s reaction to these revised proposals.
Revised retail statement is unhelpful
One of the main issues for this application is the impact of the proposed supermarket on retail trade in the town centre. I don’t think the revised retail statement adds much to our understanding of that impact. The main purpose of the new report by Indigo Planning is to argue that Ludlow Tesco is not in the town centre. Indigo want the examination of impact restricted to the primary shopping area (King Street through to the market). A planning application recently approved in Maghull, Indigo argues, gives support for this.
Indigo seem to be trying to wriggle around local and national planning rules. If Tesco is not in the town centre, the impact of the Rocks Green store on town centre trade doesn’t look as damaging. But our local planning documents state very clearly that Tesco is in our town centre. National and local policies say that impact on the town centre, including in this case Tesco, must be estimated before a decision can be made on a major retail application. I think that is clear cut and that’s why I find Indigo’s latest retail analysis unhelpful.
Highways England withdraws objection
In April, Highways England withdrew its holding objection to this scheme. The objection had been made because the developer had not submitted an adequate analysis of the extra traffic the supermarket and petrol filling station would generate on the A49 roundabout at Rocks Green. The agency also wanted the traffic analysis projected forward to 2026 to align with Shropshire’s main planning document, the core strategy. After a new analysis was submitted by transport consultants, HaskoningDHV UK, Highways England withdrew its objection on 20 April.
I am not sure that Highways England would have taken this action if it had known the full facts of the case. In an email to HaskoningDHV on 9 February, Shropshire Council said:
“I can confirm that there remains no committed developments I am aware of that need to be taken into account” [in your highways analysis].
Technically, “committed developments” means sites with planning permission, so this is correct. But the email did not give the whole picture.
SAMDev, the part of the local plan that specifies local housing sites, allocates a site for 200 homes behind the Nelson Inn. These will be built by 2026. They will add to the pressure on the A49 Rocks Green roundabout, as well as to congestion at the T-junction at the end of Dun Cow Road. If HaskoningDHV had known about this planned development, the company might well have drawn different conclusions. If Highways England had been informed that the revised highways analysis did not take account of a significant housing development, it might not have withdrawn its objection.
Viv Parry and I have asked council planners to re-examine the traffic analysis in the context of an additional 200 homes behind the Nelson.
It’s time to decide
It is vital that we get the data and analysis for this scheme right. I am not sure that we are yet far enough ahead with understanding the safety of the petrol filling station. We don’t know whether the extra traffic can be accommodated on the A49 and A4117. We don’t have a clear understanding of the impact of an out of town store on retailers in Ludlow town centre.
We need this to enable Shropshire Council, the South Planning Committee and residents of Ludlow to make a fair assessment on whether this is the right scheme for Ludlow.
It is time that this planning application is brought before the South Planning Committee and decided. We have spent a year and a half revising the details and, to be honest, there has not been much progress. Let’s get the analysis right and get this application decided.
. Maghull is an urban borough with twice the population of Ludlow within the metropolitan borough of Sefton, Merseyside. The Netto store, which was recently given planning permission, will be within the district centre (DC/2015/02016). This is an equivalent location of our Tesco, which lies on the edge of the town centre for Ludlow as defined in the local plan, SAMDev. The proposed Rocks Green supermarket is out of town. Indigo Planning argue that because a council appointed consultant to the planning application produced a technical argument about how impact should be measured in Maghull, Tesco should be excluded from the impact assessment in Ludlow. The Maghull decision was not made by a planning inspector or the courts. It was made by a local planning committee, on the advice of officers and consultants. It does not set a precedent and I cannot see it is anything other than a distraction from assessing the true impact of the scheme on the town centre.
. The impact of extra traffic on the junction of Dun Cow Road and the A4117 is a matter for Shropshire Council as the county highways authority, not Highways England. Unlike the A49, the A4117 is not part of the strategic roads network.