Proposals for two new 24-hour drive-through food units and new retail space at Bradley Stoke’s Willow Brook Centre have been refused permission by councillors for a second time.
South Gloucestershire Council’s (SGC’s) Spatial Planning Committee, meeting at Brook Way Activity Centre on 19th March, had been tasked with “re-evaluating” the application after councillors on a lower-level committee had ignored the case officer’s recommendation and refused permission by five votes to two.
The proposals have proved controversial because of the proximity of the drive-through units to residential properties in Wheatfield Drive, with the single-storey Starbucks being just 22m away from the nearest dwelling. The adjacent two-storey McDonald’s building would be 50m distant.
Further concerns had been expressed over the plans to realign the main access road into the Willow Brook Centre, which would bring it much closer to the rear of residential properties in Dewfalls Drive.
In a re-run of the previous meeting, a packed hall first heard from the applicant’s agent who said the proposals represented a “significant investment” that would “enhance the vitality and viability of the centre” and create 85 full- and part-time jobs.
Although an earlier ‘acoustic report’ submitted by the applicant indicated that there would be no significant increase in night-time noise associated with the food units, the agent indicated that they would be prepared to accept a condition restricting the opening hours of the food units to 6am-11pm for Starbucks and 6am-midnight (Sun-Thu) / 6am-1am (Fri & Sat) for McDonald’s.
Opponents of the scheme were then given a chance to speak, including Steve Moir (headteacher at Bradley Stoke Community School) who said the proximity of the fast food units would add to the “challenges and temptations” faced by students and undermine teaching on healthy lifestyles.
Also speaking against were John Rendell (deputy town clerk), Karen Pullen (Dewfalls and Wheatfield Drive Residents’ Association) and local ward councillors Sarah Pomfret, Brian Hopkinson, Roger Avenin, Keith Cranney and John Ashe.
Amongst the points raised were concerns over increased traffic, noise and light pollution, anti-social behaviour, litter, the loss of car parking spaces and an over concentration of food outlets (which it was claimed might impact the viability of existing food outlets at the centre).
Once the committee debate got underway, Cllr Pat Hockey said the development would be “really out of place” and affect nearby residents trying to enjoy their homes and gardens.
Referring to national planning policy guidelines on sustainable development and noting the loss of car parking spaces, Cllr Hockey added: “It’s not going to help the economy much if people come to a shopping centre and can’t find anywhere to park.”
When it eventually came to a vote, eight members supported a motion to refuse permission, with one abstaining.
The applicant, Brookmaker Partnership Limited, has the right to appeal the decision within six months. A spokesperson said:
“We worked closely with officers at SGC to deliver a policy-compliant application that sought to improve the Willow Brook Centre with additional food and drink and retail units.”
“We are disappointed that councillors have not accepted their officer’s recommendation and refused the application at a time when investment into town centres is both rare and much-needed.”
Photos: 1 Members of the public hold up enlarged visualisations of the proposed McDonald’s and Starbuck’s units as councillors consider the application. 2 Annotated masterplan showing the proposed layout of the car park and access road at the end of phase 2. 3 (L-r): Alan Foote, Karen Pullen and Jayne Coppola, all members of the Dewfalls and Wheatfield Drive Residents Association, show their relief after the meeting.
Decision Notice (formal statement of grounds for refusal)
The proposed development, if permitted, would result in a harmful concentration of food and drink uses resulting in a prejudicial impact on residential amenity due to noise, general disturbance, fumes, smells, and late night activity. The proposed development is therefore contrary to policy PSP8 and PSP35 of the South Gloucestershire Local Plan: Policies, Sites and Places Plan (Adopted) November 2017.
Furthermore, the application is contrary to the three objectives in paragraph 8 of the National Planning Policy Framework (February 2019) in that the development fails to promote the economic, social and environmental character of the area.
Statement issued by the Dewfalls and Wheatfield Drive Residents Association following the decision
We are pleased that the voting committee have seen common sense and voted to reject thoughtless, blinkered planning in favour of longer-term thoughtful development.
Bradley Stoke desperately needs good design and thought before any future planning proposals for the Willow Brook Centre are submitted to SGC.
We welcome enhancement of the Willow Brook Centre and of course, will support any planning proposals from CBRE* or others that support or provide this.
Many previous planning decisions have been made which have proved to be regretful and have resulted in a mish-mash of development by placing new buildings wherever is convenient at the time. We appeared to have turned a corner today.
This town deserves better planning for the long-term benefit of all its residents and to improve Bradley Stoke as an attractive place to live. We hope CBRE will consider this in future proposals.
* CBRE Global Investment Partners, owners of the Willow Brook Centre since 2016
More information and related links:
- Planning application: PT18/1491/O
- Agenda and reports for the SPC meeting on 19th March
- Transcript of the BSJ’s live reporting from the meeting [PDF]
This article originally appeared in the April 2019 issue of the Bradley Stoke Journal magazine (on pages 6 & 7). The magazine is delivered FREE, EVERY MONTH (except August), to ALL 8,700 homes in Bradley Stoke. Phone 01454 300 400 to enquire about advertising or leaflet insertion.
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