Following a public enquiry, plans to redevelop the former Barracks Printing mill have been approved.
Cedar Invest had challenged Cheshire East Council’s decision to refuse the application but Planning inspector Matthew Birkinshaw, said he allowed the appeal but with conditions to protect the ‘vitality and viability of Macclesfield Town Centre’ including limiting the total amount of retail floorspace and restrict the type and amount of goods that could be sold from the site.
Objectors Macclesfield Town Council, Macclesfield Civic Society and Eskmuir Securities Limited (owners of the Grosvenor Shopping Centre), local pressure group Wake up Macc and ilovemacc have all argued any retail development must inevitably divert trade from the struggling town centre.
A 2016 assessment found that the health of Macclesfield Town Centre was variable with high vacancy levels of units within the town centre during 2015. Updated evidence shows this has increased to around 15% of units currently empty. Total comparison floorspace and market share are also in decline. In 2014/15 Macclesfield was ranked 225 in the sub-regional shopping hierarchy, down from 170 in 2005.
(Ed: The study also found that the centre had at that time fit for purpose car parks – but of course that was before Churchill Way car park had been earmarked for redevelopment.)
A report from planning officers said the proposal would bring ‘economic benefits through new jobs, investment in the area and by bringing a vacant brownfield site into viable use on one of the key gateways to Macclesfield’.
The site has been unused since 2004 when fire ravaged the buildings. There were further fires in 2013.
Regarding traffic the inspectors report states: “The main access to and from the site for customers (and smaller vehicles servicing the ancillary’pods’) would be from a new left-in/left-out junction onto The Silk Road. Although The Silk Road was designed as a distributor road, no objections to the access have been raised by the Council’s Head of Strategic Infrastructure. Additional lanes for drivers to deacceierate and merge back into oncoming traffic would be provided and no capacity issues have been identified. There is no robust evidence before me which illustrates that the access arrangements would be unsafe or lead to hazardous congestion.”
- “Following redevelopment some additional congestion would arise from customers leaving the site and using The Silk Road/Hurdsfield Road/Hibel Road roundabout to head north. But despite increasing the use of the roundabout, the appellant’s evidence shows how it could be reconfigured to improve capacity. Results of transport modelling show that the queues on the southern approach to the roundabout (which has the highest number of queuing vehicles) would be reduced from 6 vehicles to 4. This demonstrates that the proposal would not only mitigate the impact of the scheme, but actually improve the operation of the roundabout.”
(Ed: So the development will actually ease traffic congestion – that’s good news for local residents as I’m guessing Cheshire East’s flawed air pollution statistics were used in the calculations)
With regard to the nature of units the report states: “In the interests of the vitality and viability of Macclesfield Town Centre conditions are needed to limit the total amount of retail floorspace permitted, the amount of retail floorspace provided at ground floor level, the total external sales area for use as a garden centre and the total Class A3/A5 floorspace. A minimum unit size is also necessary to ensure that the scheme does not create smaller shops with similar occupiers to the town centre.”
- “For the same reasons, and to reflect the submitted assessments, it is necessary to restrict the type and amount of goods that could be sold from the site. This includes larger, ‘bulky’ items such as carpets, floor coverings, furniture, home furnishings, electrical goods, domestic appliances, DIY goods and materials and gardening tools and equipment. Thereafter it is necessary to define exceptions that would allow the intended retailers to operate.”
The Inspector’s full report can be found here: