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The Reasons for
The Unsuitability of a Supermarket
between
Hadleigh High Street and the River Brett

An extract from
The Conclusions of a Public Inquiry
which were used in the formulation of
Babergh District Local Plan
Alteration No 1/1995

Reproduced by the Hadleigh Society, December 1998

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INSPECTOR’S CONCLUSIONS

The impact of the proposed store on the vitality and viability of the town centre.

41.91 Although the Policy is supported by an analysis of the available ‘headroom’ in Hadleigh, this is not the same as an assessment of the likely impact of the store on the vitality and viability of the town centre. The revised PPG6 advises that, in practice, most aspects of vitality and viability will be difficult to assess with confidence, but it does identify several indicators which usually provide the main criteria. These include commercial yield on non-domestic property; pedestrian flow; the proportion of vacant street level property in the primary retail area; the diversity of uses; retailer representation and profile; retailer demand or intentions to change representation and the physical structure of the centre. In this case few of these indicators have been researched or are available to inform a decision.

41.92 However, from the evidence presented and from my inspections of the town centre, I consider that its main characteristic is that there is a wide range of convenience goods shops which form a large proportion of the total. Because of the shoppers which they attract they are the keystone to the vitality and viability of the town centre as a whole and to the character of the heart of the Conservation Area. I consider that there would be a high risk of a large number of closures of such shops as a result of the opening of a store of the size proposed whether that would be in the proposed location or out-of-town. From what I heard, read and saw of the strength of the comparison goods trade in Hadleigh I think it most unlikely that new comparison stores would open in sufficient quantity to take their place, as well as to take up the empty floorspace of re-develop vacant sites in the town at present. Whilst I do not consider these to be excessive in their scale or proportion, it must be a prime objective in such a fine market town and important Conservation Area to retain premises in use and to fill gaps such as the Old Post Office site with appropriate buildings. I consider that the proposed development of a supermarket would be likely to prejudice that objective and to harm the vitality and viability of the town centre.

41.93 Hadleigh inevitably suffers from close competition from other larger centres and Hadleigh residents are, I have no doubt, in the habit of visiting Ipswich and Colchester regularly to comparison shop. It is inevitable that they will visit the large stores on the Ipswich fringe, although doing basic or daily shopping in Hadleigh. To stop some leakage would be likely to require a very large store, comparable to the 6-7,000 sq.ms. of Tesco or Asda which would certainly not be practicable or acceptable on the riverside site or in terms of its effect on vitality and viability. The Council now consider that a store of the order of 2,350 sq.ms. might not be achievable on the site, and the size would probably be less than double the size of the existing Co-op store and would not offer such a higher order of choice, although it would be more convenient to the car-borne shopper. Existing Hadleigh shoppers would no doubt be attracted to use such a new store but that attraction would be mostly at the expense of the Hadleigh shops, and with the consequences of closure and the reduction in vitality and viability which I have outlined.

41.94 In my view, Hadleigh has as much if not more chance to compete and survive as a vital centre and living Conservation Area by continuing to offer the diversity and speciality of convenience shops which it clearly displays at the moment, and which is one of its main attractions in my view. I say this in the knowledge that PPG6 encourages new retail development, competition, and change, and the allocation of a choice of sites for different types of retail development to enable retailers to benefit from competition between developers for sites. I am also mindful that Government policy tends to favour edge of town stores which are accessible by other means of transport than the car and which may have less impact on the town centre than an out-of-town stores store. However, in Hadleigh, where the vitality and viability of the centre is I believe so dependent on small shops, which occupy listed buildings, I conclude that the proposed development would be harmful both for the vitality and viability of the retail centre and the character and appearance of the Conservation Area which relies heavily on keeping shops in use.

Alternative sites

41.95 From my conclusions on the likely effect of a store relatively close to the town centre and with the possibility of a pedestrian link, it will be clear that I consider the likely impact of a store on the edge of town upon the vitality and viability the town centre would be equally, if not more harmful because it would draw more trade from the town centre with consequent closures and with little or no chance of linked trips to existing shops. I have considered all such proposals, in greenfield locations, on the Lady Lane Industrial Estate, the Tesco/Buyright store and at Wilson’s Corn Mill, but find them all unacceptable as alternatives for that reason alone. The Corn Mill has the merit of re-using an existing listed building and carrying with it road and parking improvements but these benefits would not outweigh the likely damage to the town centre and Conservation Area of a large store at this distance from the centre. It would also have the disadvantage of drawing traffic through the Benton Street/Station Road junction which is undesirable.

41.96 I consider that there is definite merit in consolidation of the existing centre because of its extensive concentration of listed buildings in commercial use. I appreciate that first floor trading is unattractive in such a small town, and I see little scope for that or for the development of a large modern store in the centre because of the tight urban fabric and its historic nature.

The effect on the natural and built environment

41.97 On my visits to the Riverside Walk I was impressed with its peace and tranquillity and the scenic quality of this part of the countryside on the edge of the town. The views of river, meadows and trees with the backdrop of the townscape created by the many listed buildings on High Street are extremely attractive. Having such a quiet and beautiful area little changed in centuries, perhaps apart from the fact that it is now more publicly accessible, is a very valuable asset to the town and its open nature is particularly important to the setting of the town and many of its buildings. I agree with the objectors that, however designed and screened such a large building and area of car parking would completely spoil this present quality which is specifically recognised by inclusion in both the Conservation Area and the Special Landscape Area. The building itself would obscure part of the view and inevitably introduce a type of development out of keeping with the domestic scale of architecture which can be seen on the High Street.

41.98 Walking the well-used paths up Constitutional Hill and then across the fields to Coram Street, one can look down upon the town and again see the High Street across trees and meadows. The large roof of the store, the expanse of some 200 parked cars, and the continual movement of vehicles would be set out below one and would intrude upon and radically change the view for the worse. It would be impossible to hide such development from the vantage points on the Hill which allow a unique opportunity to view the old market town. I accept that the area is not in continuous view but people climb hills to gain a good view, and to stop and look round, and I consider that it would be most undesirable to alter the present view of Hadleigh by introducing such development.

41.99 I accept that there are some parts of the views both from the Riverside Walk and the Hill, for example the Brett Works, and the apparently haphazard piles of builders’ rubble to their north, that do detract from the scene, but these should not be seen as justifying further harmful development, rather steps could be taken to improve matters. The Brett Works are largely old and decrepit, although there is some new development there. The site was not considered appropriate for a new store, one reason being that the necessary access from Bridge Street would put pressure on the area now proposed for that development. I find this a little illogical because the corollary is that pressure or opportunity for the redevelopment of the Works will inevitably result from Policy 16 an ultimately the whole riverside would be redeveloped and changed anyway. Whilst the redevelopment of the Works may be seen as an improvement in the Conservation Area because of their unattractive appearance, I cannot accept that implementation of Polity 16 can be so regarded or that it would do other than detract from the character and appearance of the area. Combining my concern that the store would have a harmful effect upon the vitality and viability of the centre with the visual harm to the character and appearance of the Conservation Area and Special Landscape Area, my conclusion on these aspects is that the site is not suitable for a large new store and should not be included in the Alteration.

41.100 The noise of traffic using the access road and car park and particularly the noise of delivery vehicles, clanging of trolleys and other noises likely to occur in the service area, illustrated as being about 100m. from the river, would inevitably intrude upon this present peacefulness by the river and I consider that this too would be a harmful effect.

Archaeological interest

41.101 As the area is one of archaeological interest it would be appropriate, if the Policy were intended to be retained, to include the addition clause (x) which the Council propose.

The effect on the road network

41.102 There would be an increase in traffic levels in High Street and Bridge Street but the roads are main urban roads which, in design terms, would be capable of accommodating additional traffic which would be generated by the store. I am more concerned about the environmental effect of the traffic which is more difficult to judge but again High Street and Bridge Street are main roads serving the town upon which the number and effect of additional vehicles likely to be generated by the store itself would be difficult to distinguish from others. Congestion would be unlikely to occur at the Bridge Street entrance because it would be constructed to meet the standards specified by the Highway Authority and because of the length of the access road to the store and car park where queuing for space could, if necessary, be accommodated without affecting the highway. Visibility at the point of access is adequate to avoid there being a danger to highway users.

41.103 The mini-roundabout at the Calais Street/High Street junction might well have a calming effect on traffic which would be likely to be beneficial to all concerned here and, in my view, a white painted circle in the road would not have the harmful environmental effect which some objectors fear would result from the proposed improvement. Kerb realignment here could also afford the old Forge more protection from passing vehicles. In summary I do not consider that the objections relating to the likely impact on the immediate highway network would be so harmful as to warrant my recommending deletion of the Policy on such grounds.

41.104 The improvements to Aldham Mill Hill and Calais Street are related not just to this Policy but to the wider objective of relieving Angel Street and to Policies 19 and 20 also, and my conclusions, in sections 45 and 46 of my Report, that the improvements are desirable in respect of this proposals are relevant therefore.

41.105 I disagree with the proposal that a new road should be constructed to the rear of Calais Street because this would have a harmful urbanising effect upon the river valley and would in my view be difficult to relate to the proposed entrance to the supermarket.

Pedestrian access to the proposed store

41.106 I agree that the provision of a pedestrian access to the store would allow close contact with the High Street and be likely to encourage some shoppers to visit other shops in High Street. Without it the store would have an equally deleterious effect as would a true out-of-town store because the walk via Bridge Street or the riverside would effectively separate the two areas. Although the Council are adamant that a store would not be allowed without a pedestrian access, the allocated site does not include land which could provide such an access nor does it indicate where such a link would or would not be permitted. There would be insufficient guidance to the developer therefore and in this particular case I do not consider that it would be sufficient simply to indicate that a pedestrian link would be an ‘expectation’. If indeed the Council would not approve a store without a pedestrian link in a position which would provide a close association with High Street they should indicate that it is a requirement of the development and I see no reason why it should not be as without it the proposal would be even more harmful. Also in view of the extreme sensitivity of the High Street frontage, this aspect should not be left to chance or future consideration at the planning application stage, when a store proposal would have the strength which the Development Plan carries.

41.107 However, the fact that the Proposals Map might be amended and the Policy be so worded to give more certainty to the inclusion of a pedestrian link, does not alter my view that the proposal would do harm to the present character and appearance of the Conservation Area and the particular quality of the Special Landscape Area and should therefore not be included in the Alteration.

Car parking

41.108 The public support for the suggested car parking in this area was based on a consultation on a non-specific site and amount of car parking space, and I agree that it should not be seen as support for supermarket, which itself would generate the need for more car parking. The larger the store, the less space left over for public car parking but based on the Council’s various estimates of size and spaces the residue appears likely to be less than 100 which falls far short of the estimated requirement without the store. This would be some improvement upon existing town centre provision and would ameliorate the parking situation in terms of capacity. However, I do not think that this consideration alone, or combined with the perceived benefit of a store with parking space for public use, outweighs the visual harm which I consider would be done to the Conservation Area and Special Landscape Area to the west of High Street. The Council could resist further development for which pressure is already evident from other objectors wishing more flexible wording or enabling development, but it is the development which is proposed and not the precedent argument which concerns me.

41,109 I agree to a large extent with the Council’s assessment of the alternatives which have been suggested. It would be desirable to have car parks which intercept traffic on entry to the town, but it is not possible to achieve such a complete pattern of distribution. The areas of greatest need for car parking are those into which it is undesirable to draw increased numbers of vehicles and pedestrians also. Duke Street for example does have problems in terms of width, lack of footways and the visibility to the south from the Junction with High Street is severely reduced by the wall of the library. These difficulties together with those which the Council outline in relation to the site access, rule out the use of the Toppesfield Bridge site as a alternative car park, and the remainder of the suggestions in the area have site problems, even if Duke Street was of a better standard. I agree also that the Old Post Office site would be better developed than retained for parking, particularly as it is too limited to function well as a decked car park.

41.110 The Council have in a sense identified a possible reserve option in the decking of Magdalen Street car park which is a matter for them to consider further. As it may be proposed in a future Alteration I shall make no comment to avoid prejudicing any future debate. I consider that there would be considerable merit in investigating how better use can be made of existing space by time/cost management of car parks. There does appear to be under-use of space of the George St/Stonehouse Road car park which would not be unreasonable for some long stay use. I note the Council consider that car park management is not a matter for a local plan and PPG13 advises that parking charges and enforcement of parking restrictions should not appear in development plans as policies. However, they should be addressed in the context of land use policies and proposals for the management of traffic and, fundamentally in this case I believe, in order to establish what can be achieved by the more efficient use of existing car parks.

The effect on local residents

41.111 In considering such objections I have borne in mind that the residents of High Street and Bridge Street live in the centre of town and experience some disturbance from the activity and traffic on those roads. Having visited a number of the gardens and rear rooms of the premises I appreciate the reason why they value the contrasting peace and quiet at the backs of their dwellings. There would inevitably be some disturbance from the high levels of traffic and delivery lorries on the access road particularly for the residents of No.17 Bridge Street, which would abut the access road, and for those residents who adjoin the pedestrian access which may be created from High Street to the site. This could be reduced, as the Council’s proposed new clause (x) implies, by the building of walls, screen planting, and dense planting of trees and shrubs chosen to deter access and trespass. There could be an increased separation of car parking from rear gardens and from No.7 Bridge Street which would be little more than 10 m. away from the car park as shown on the illustrative plan (BDC/16/C Appx.1.). The store as shown on that plan would also loom very large over the rear boundary of ‘Sun Court’ and would be detrimental to its setting and to the living conditions of its occupants. However, the site is a large one and there would be sufficient room to locate the store further away from ‘Sun Court’ than is the case on the illustrative plan and indeed to separate the development more substantially from the existing dwellings/gardens to reduce the disturbance to an acceptable level. However, to achieve this would mean moving the store and car park westwards from its position on the illustrative plan, which would be likely to increase their prominence when seen from the riverside and from the high land to the west and to exacerbate the harmful effect on the Conservation Area and Special Landscape Area.

41.112 I do not consider that there would be an unacceptable degree of disturbance occasioned by the increase in traffic on High Street or Bridge Street itself, or by litter, vermin and birds, to which some objectors refer.

The effect on the allotments

41.113 The presence of an access road to the proposed store and car park alongside allotments does not mean that there would be more trespass and vandalism. Although the public boundary of the allotments would be longer, the development should include adequate security fencing/walling and it is possible to obstruct access effectively by means of thicket planting with thorny shrubs and trees. The increased activity and greater public usage which would occur in the area would, as the Council state, be likely to deter crime. Other nuisance and air pollution would not be so serious as to warrant altering the policy. I conclude therefore that the objections concerning the effect of the development upon the allotments do not warrant change.

The effect on fishing

41.114 Whilst I sympathise with the views of the Angling Society, particularly as the tranquillity of the area is a quality which they value as much as other users, it is the issue of protecting the Conservation Area and the Special Landscape Area which I consider to be most important in this case and I do not consider the effect upon fishing per se to be an overriding consideration which would warrant altering the Policy.

Flood risk

41.115 It is unfortunate that there was not better co-ordination in usage of maps defining the Brett flood plain. The building would clearly be in the flood-plain according to the NRA definition and the proposal would therefore be in conflict with Alteration Policy 58 which seeks to protect people and property from flooding by avoiding development in flood plains.

41.116 Whilst the Council and the National Rivers Authority agree that part of the car park could be lowered to compensate for the raising of the area of the store within the floodplain, the car park as a whole and the service area for the store would be in the floodplain and I do not consider it sensible to build a store where customers may on occasion not be able to use the car park and service vehicles may not be able to deliver goods because of flooding. Whilst this may be a technical problem which could be overcome to minimise the degree of risk, it is nevertheless a risk and adds to my conclusion that this is not an appropriate site for such development. In visual terms I do not consider that ‘sinking’ the car park in the way suggested by the Council would lessen, to any significant extent, the impact of the view of cars when seen from the high land to the west, which I consider would be harmful for the reasons I have already explained.

The wording of the policy

41.117 There are circumstances in which a particular proposal would and should only be acceptable to the Council if certain requirements are met in full. In order to give clear and unambivalent guidance to a prospective developer, it is necessary that a local plan should identify such prerequisites. I see nothing wrong with the phrasing to which the DOE object provided that the requirements specified are fundamental prerequisites or indispensable conditions of the development. One such, which the Council have made clear in evidence in this case, would be the provision of a pedestrian link closely associated with existing shops on High Street. On the other hand there may be provisions or arrangements, such as reference to commuted payments, which are only desirable or which may be capable of alternative solution, and which would be factors upon which a refusal of planning permission could not reasonably be based. These may be seen as a separate category of ‘expectations’, and would more appropriately be included as such as guidance in the explanatory text. It is not for me to distinguish between these clauses, and particularly as I have concluded that this Policy should not be included in the Alteration in any event.

41.118 The requirements or expectations of the Policy, including the road improvements, are reasonably related to the proposal and I see no reason for reducing their scale or altering their nature, or indeed for introducing flexibility to allow other types of development which might assist in some way. This argument could lead to the development of more of the riverside area than is proposed and appears to me to be an early example of the type of pressure which would be exerted for further change were this proposal to proceed.

41.119 For all the reasons I have outlined, and notwithstanding my conclusions that some of the many objections made do not warrant a change to the Policy, I conclude overall that Policy 16 should not be included in the Alteration.

RECOMMENDATION

41.120 That Policy 16 be deleted from the Alteration.

Policy 17
Retail Policy for Hadleigh

OBJECTION NOS. 0371/03, 0601/03

THE CASE FOR THE OBJECTORS

42.1 Policy 17 proposes to alter adopted Policy LPHT1 by including reference to Policy 16. Only if Policy 16 is deleted, and reference to it is deleted from Policy 17, should the latter Policy be endorsed.

THE COUNCIL’S RESPONSE

42.2 If Policy 16 is endorsed then the cross reference to it in this Policy is a necessary and logical consequence.

INSPECTOR’S CONCLUSIONS

42.3 My conclusion and recommendation with regard to Policy 16 is that it should not be included in the Alteration and therefore Policy 17 should be amended accordingly. I note that Policy 17 also proposes changing ‘MODEST’ in LPHT1 (implying 15,000 sq.ft. of net floorspace) to ‘SMALL’ without explanation or definition of small. Whilst there is no objection to this aspect of the Policy, the Council may wish to consider, in the light of my recommendation with regard to Policy 16, whether it would remain appropriate to make such an alteration or whether the original LPHT1 is to be preferred.

RECOMMENDATION

42.4 That reference to Policy 16 be deleted from Policy 17 and the content of Policy 17 be reconsidered accordingly.

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