Photo: Proposed Sainsbury’s site at Kew
New information on the retail environment in Southport town centre has led to the postponement of further consideration of Sainsbury’s planned move of their main local store to Meols Cop retail park.
Planning Inspector Ms Christina Downes has decided that the 2015 Southport Retail Study, produced as part of the Sefton Borough Local Plan, is highly relevant to the proposed move. Under planning laws commonly known as ‘Town Centre First’, major supermarket developments are only permitted outside of town centres if there is perceived to be a shortage of food retail in the town as a whole and/or a lack of suitable sites for food retail expansion within the designated town centre area.
Until the latest study was released, the figures which the Planning Inspector was relying on in her deliberations were roughly five years out of date. Ms Downes is now offering the participants of the Sainsbury’s Inquiry the option of choosing between dates in December and February to reconvene the Inquiry into the proposal after all parties have had the opportunity to study the new report and all its supporting statistics. The Inquiry had been due to reconvene this week.
Town Centre Councillor Tony Dawson, who has already given evidence to the Inquiry feels that the delay was inevitable.
“No one wants such a crucial decision for the future of Southport Town Centre to be made on out-of-date information,” he says. “It is only a shame this study was not published before the Inquiry started.”
Dr John Pugh MP is also a listed objector to the proposed move which he believes could do irretrievable harm to the town centre, especially the north end of Lord Street, if it is allowed to go through.
“I expect close scrutiny of the current state of play for retail in Southport,” he says, “will demonstrate even more conclusively that our town centre needs support, not undermining by a proposal which would take thousands of paying customers out of town every week.”
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