National Highways, the body that owns the major routes across England including the A49, has said that a decision on planning permission for the proposed M&S Food store alongside the A49 should be delayed by at least three months (22/05682/FUL). The objection is a legal brake on the development plans, which cannot progress until National Highways’ concerns are addressed.

The objections are on technical matters not to the principal of the development. Experience with other sites, such as Sainsbury’s and Foldgate Lane, shows developers find it challenging to meet National Highways’ demands. National Highways can renew its objection after three months if it is not satisfied with responses.

I am not surprised by the need for this objection. Berrys, on behalf of Avenbury Properties 2021, submitted a cheap as chips planning application which ignored advice given by council planners and highways team and used out of date retail impact assessments along with incomplete highways impact assessments.

The “opening year” has been given as 2023 in the transport assessments. At this rate, the site might not get planning permission before the summer, giving an opening date of late 2024.

National Highways says the number of trips to and from the supermarket “appear to be underestimated”. It recommends that the analysis of trips is revisited, including analysing peak flows for weekdays as well as Friday and Saturday. (The pre-planning advice from Shropshire Council highways team said it had “serious concern with regard to overspill parking onto the local highway network.”)

The current trip data does not give National Highways sufficient information to assess the impact of the development on the A49 Sheet Road roundabout.

National Highways also says it needs more information on the site foundations along with any ground level changes that might affect the embankment down to the A49. It wants to see a lighting plan for the development given its proximity to the A49.

The planning application was lodged by Berrys on behalf of Avenbury Properties 2021 in January of this year. Avenbury Properties 2021 is dormant company which had £100 in the bank in January this year. It is clearly a company created to shelter its backers in the event of project failure. It is a bit of a mystery who will eventually own the land if the store is built.

There have been a number of Avenbury Companies. Among them, Avenbury Estates Ltd is still running with more than £200,000 in the bank. Avenbury Properties Ltd went into voluntary insolvency in January 2021, after paying £275,000 to its creditors. Avenbury Consultants LLP was wound up in in 2016. Avenbury Rushden LLP, wound up in 2016. Avenbury Luton LLP, would up in 2013. Avenbury Mold LLP, dissolved in 2013.

Avenbury Properties 2021 looks like being another short lived property company, leaving us with no clue who will eventually own the site. It could be M&S, but supermarkets often don’t wish to own the sites they operate from, unless there are clear possibilities of a profitable resale should the store close.

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