Residents and traders in Stirchley are concerned about plans by Tesco to develop a major food development on Hazelwell Lane. In October 2007 Birmingham City Council confirmed that it is its intention, in principle, to select Tesco as the preferred developer. Birmingham City Council approved Tesco's application. Campaigners fought to get the application called in for considering by the Secretary of State.
In April 2011, Tesco signed a multi-million pound deal to build a new store in Stirchley after finally buying the land from the city council.
Background on supermarket planning applications in Stirchley - 2001
The Planning Inspector dismissed an appeal by Asda for a store in an edge-of-centre site in Stirchley, a district centre in Birmingham. In retail terms, the Inspector considered that there was not sufficient need for the store, that there was a sequentially preferable site, and that there would be a detrimental impact on Stirchley. Also key to the decision was its current manufacturing industrial use – local plan policies relating to industrial land would be undermined by its use for retail.
Asda appealed Birmingham City Council’s failure to decide on its October 2001 outline application for a retail store and adjoining residential units. The application site was at that time used for manufacturing industrial landuse, and was close to the Retail Core of Stirchley, which the Inspector identifies as an edge-of-centre site.
Planning Policy Guidance 6 - The Inspector noted that the latest revision to PPG6 includes the matters of need and the sequential approach and that the relevant parts of the Unitary Development Plan (UDP) have been superseded by it.
Need -The UDP does not identify any projected growth in expenditure on convenience goods. The Inspector considers that a convenience goods based assessment would be more robust than the convenience business approach used by the applicant’s submissions. The Inspector also puts doubt on the catchment area used by both the applicants (180,000) and by Sainsbury (8,300) suggesting that the actual catchment is around the figure used by the Council (25,700). The Inspector also does not believe that the full floorspace can be justified without it drawing trade “from the capacity that supports neighbouring stores and centres.”
Asda believes a store of the size proposed (3715 sq m) is required to claw back trade currently lost to neighbouring centres. Asda had drawn attention to qualities “that set it apart from its rivals, particularly the offer of the George range of clothing,” but the Inspector noted that this was not strictly relevant and that “any permission would not be personal to ASDA…. Personal permissions are rarely legitimate. The Inspector also considered that “the provision of a large modern foodstore” was “not the only way of enhancing the centre.”
Equally, “access in the Stirchley area to a foodstore is not so poor as to justify an additional store.
Overall, “there is not a quantitative need for a store of the size proposed nor an overriding qualitative or accessibility need for an additional foodstore.”
The only other site to be considered is at Hazelwell Lane, for which the council has prepared a Development Brief and which has been subject to planning applications by Tesco. There are site assembly and compulsory purchase issues but the Inspector can “see no reason why the Hazelwell Lane site could not be made available within a reasonable time.” The Inspector believes that the north of the centre, where the Hazelwell Lane site is, has more pedestrian flow into and out of the centre than the south, where Asda’s site is. The Inspector also believes that the Hazelwell Lane site could introduce an active retail frontage to the road which could increase footfall. The appeal site, in contrast, is not well linked to the centre so is “sequentially inferior in both policy and practice terms to the identified ‘in centre’ site at Hazelwell Lane.”
The Inspector does not consider that the impact on the Kings Heath and Selly Oak district centres would be unacceptable.
As the Asda application is not within the town centre the result would be a loss of trade in the shopping centre as a whole. Local policy aims at consolidating Stirchley district centre at a time when it is likely to be losing out to Birmingham city centre, and the Asda application would do the opposite by extending the centre into a linear shape and “have a significant impact on footfall within the retail core at the northern end of the shopping centre that would be harmful to the centre.”
Provision of industrial land
The relocation of the existing manufacturing business on the site (something dealt with by a Section 106 Undertaking) would result in a “reduction in available industrial land in Birmingham.” This is something that is against development plan and emerging plan policy aims which strive for an increase in land available for industrial investment in the city. Industrial land would also be lost as a result of the Hazelwell Lane development, but around half the amount. The Inspector recognises that the current occupier, Arvin Meritor, “needs to relocate to remain competitive.” However, relocation could be to a nearby site which would mean jobs could be saved without the retail development going ahead. Overall, the Inspector concludes that “the potential to save jobs would not incdicate that the proposal should be allowed” and that “the loss of the site to retailing would undermine development and emerging plan policy in relation to the supply of industrial land.”
Highway safety/ townscape
On highway safety, the Inspector concludes that “the proposed highway scheme would not have any significant detrimental impact on highway safety.” Regarding the townscape and security, the Inspector suggests that “the proposal would preserve the grain of the existing townscape” and “reasonable levels of security could be provided.”
Overall, “the lack of need for a store of the size proposed, the existence of a sequentially preferable site and the detrimental impact the proposal would have on Stirchley, together with the undermining of policy relating to industrial land” are determining issues on which the Inspector bases his decision to refuse the application.