THE controversial application for a Tesco superstore in Harrogate will finally come before planners on Tuesday.
It has been recommended for approval by planning officers, subject to conditions including a £1.5m town centre investment from the company.
Although the report being sent to the planning committee recognises the out-of-centre retail development is against council policy, it concludes the mitigation proposed by Tesco would be sufficient to offset the problems the store would create.
Other factors taken into account are the creation of jobs, the regeneration and decontamination of the former gas works site, increased consumer choice and protection of wildlife and recreation areas around Oak Beck.
In the report, planning officer Mark Williams states: “The weight to be afforded to these considerations is also considered to be sufficient to outweigh the policy objection to the loss of employment land (at the former industrial site).”
Tesco’s investment would include improvements to pathways, signposts and lighting in the town centre, along with a new fountain, and roadworks along some main routes. Approval of the plans would be on condition that Jennyfield District Centre was protected, with a new bus service and a guarantee not to compete with the post office and pharmacy for at least five years.
A previous planning application was submitted in August 2007 but withdrawn that November. The current application - around 25 per cent smaller than the first - was submitted in July 2009.
More than 160 letters of objection were received, with 20 letters sent by residents in Electric Avenue, and a petition of 54 signatures objecting to the development. Among those objecting is Harrogate Chamber of Trade and Commerce, whose chief executive, Brian Dunsby, has sent a document listing the organisation’s main concerns: traffic congestion, road safety, gas safety and the impact on the town’s retailers.
It concludes: “We are willing to sit down with Tesco and the planning officers to work out a solution that protects all the long term interests of Harrogate district businesses and residents – wherever they are located.
“The desires of local residents for a very convenient superstore should not outweigh the wider community interests.”
Meanwhile, 150 letters of support were sent, with a further 139 circular letters after an open day event in November 2010.
Tesco said its own consultations showed 70 per cent of people supported the application and argued local residents were in favour of having the New Park site developed.
Company spokesman Matthew Magee said: “We’ve worked hard to get the application absolutely right and it’s been a long process, but we’re pleased to be at this stage and are hopeful that councillors will approve the application.”
Among the main concerns raised by the planning officer’s report was the impact on traffic locally.
But the report said: “The proposed store would bring real benefits in terms of reducing cross-town traffic from residents in the north of the town travelling to Asda or the other superstores to the south of Harrogate.
“This is a compelling argument which must be afforded significant weight in considering this application.
“The impact upon congestion locally also needs to be balanced against potential improvements to congestion elsewhere and the fact that very little of the trip generation is actually new to the highway network as a whole.”
Council leader Don Mackenzie said he would be attending the meeting to see the debate and hear the planning committee’s decision on an application which had been “hanging about” for so long.
He added: “All residents prefer certainty, even if the eventual decision isn’t what they would have wanted.”
l The planning committee meets at the council offices in Crescent Gardens on Tuesday, September 6 at 2.30pm. The decision will be published on our website, www.harrogateadvertiser.co.uk, and via our Twitter feed, @HarrogateHound. For the full story, see next week’s Advertiser.