“Bradley Stoke Lidl” planning application set for decision next week

Elevation plan.
Proposed front elevation of the extended retail terrace.

The fate of a planning application to create an extended retail unit at Bradley Stoke’s Willow Brook shopping centre – rumoured to be destined for occupation by Lidl – is set to be decided by a committee of South Gloucestershire councillors next week.

The proposed alterations would see the existing Poundstretcher unit extended in size from the current 974 sqm (gross internal floorspace) to 2,114 sqm, an increase of 1,140 sqm.

Total car parking provision at the centre would be reduced by 55 spaces (from 927 to 872), which would come on top of the loss of 80 spaces that resulted from the recent McDonald’s and Starbucks development.

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Kitchen & Laundry Appliance Care, Bradley Stoke, Bristol.

This ‘full’ planning application for a food store has been brought forward by the Willow Brook Centre as an alternative to its existing ‘outline’ consent for the addition of two new non-food units at the end of the retail terrace.

Council officers have recommended approval of the application, despite objections from Tesco Stores Limited which operates the ‘anchor’ Tesco Extra store at the centre.

Tesco now has no say in the management of the Willow Brook Centre having relinquished its interest when the shopping centre was sold to an investment fund for £88.8 million in 2016.

Tesco’s grounds for objection include concerns over parking provision, highway safety and whether the ‘food store’ use is compliant with South Gloucestershire Council’s adopted Local Plan. The latter  promotes the provision of further ‘comparison goods’ floorspace within the Bradley Stoke town centre.

Photo of a Poundstretcher store.
How the Poundstretcher store at the Willow Brook Centre looks today.

Comparison goods have a higher value and are purchased less often, such as household items, electrical goods, clothes and shoes. People tend to go to several shops to compare products before buying them.

Bradley Stoke Town Council’s Planning & Environment Committee, which is a consultee rather than a decision-maker on planning applications, raised no objections to the proposal.

Although transport officers initially shared Tesco’s concerns about the data and methodology used by the applicant to justify the adequacy of parking provision, they now say they are content with revised calculations which assert a maximum occupancy of 763 spaces (87.5 percent of total capacity) at peak times, leaving 109 spaces free.

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Officers add that “the changes proposed … can be accommodated on site without causing a severe highway safety hazard or queuing back onto the local highway network.”

On comparison shopping, officers say the Local Plan’s “outdated evidence base” and changing consumer habits (purchasing comparison goods online) can justify a departure from policy which would “protect the vitality and viability and economic development of the town centre”.

In a report published on 10th March 2023, the South Gloucestershire Council case officer concluded:

“On balance therefore the scheme is sustainable development that should be approved without delay.”

Proposed block plan of the extension to a unit in the retail terrace. The red line shows the scope of the application, which includes the existing Unit 6 currently occupied by Poundstretcher. The proposed extension to the retail terrace is shaded dark grey.

Councillor ‘call in’

Following the publication of an officer report, councillors have five days to request that an application be referred to a committee of councillors for determination. Should no such ‘call in’ be received, a decision notice is issued in accordance with the officer recommendation.

In this case, Bradley Stoke South ward member Cllr Roger Avenin has ‘called in’ the application for determination by the Development Management Committee, citing the following reasons:

  • This will further reduce the number of car parking spaces by 55 on top of the 80 recently lost to McDonalds & Starbucks
  • The area was originally intended for a non-food retail development
  • There may well be issues regarding highway safety associated with where the unit is sited
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A site visit was subsequently held on Friday 31st March 2023 at which councillors were advised to consider the following points:

  • Will the proposal result in adverse impact on highway safety?
  • What would be the residual cumulative impacts on the surrounding road network?
  • Will there be adequate parking provision retained in the car park?
  • Will the position of the proposed building have an adverse impact on neighbouring residential amenity?
  • Will the proposed scale and design be appropriate for the location?
  • Will the existing landscape and trees be adversely affected?
  • Will any ecological habitat be adversely affected?
  • Will the vitality and viability of the Town Centre be affected?

The site meeting resolved that:

“A full and detailed report be presented to the Development Management Committee to include an overlay plan to allow comparison to made between the proposed development and the extant consent, PT18/1491/O.”

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The Development Management will now consider the application at its meeting on Thursday 13th April 2023. Under the council’s scheme of public participation representations can be made by members of the public in respect of items on the agenda. To speak at the meeting either in person or through a remote access you must register your interest and also submit the comments you intend to make in writing at least 24 hours before the start of the meeting. More details may be found on the agenda page (see link below).

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