Plans submitted for new M&S

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A NEW Marks and Spencer Simply Food could open in Harrogate by the end of next year if ambitious plans are successful.

A planning application has been submitted for the Nidd Vale site at the junction of Leeds Road and Hookstone Road, with the developer hoping to begin work as soon as permission is granted.

The plans include an in-store cafe, 175 free parking spaces for shoppers, and landscaping to make the site blend in with its surroundings – and the store is expected to provide an annual turnover of up to £15m. Developer St James Securities held a public consultation in October when 88 per cent of responses were in favour of the plans and just four per cent against, with eight per cent unsure.

In the application, agent John Goodwin of Carter Jonas said: “The feedback has resulted in the developers and their advisors feeling confident that the proposals that have evolved has the support of the local community.

“We, therefore, conclude that meaningful and positive community consultation has brought forward a more refined solution for approval.”

Among the reasons given by those who were against the scheme at the consultation was a request for affordable family housing on the site, which they said was more valuable to the area.

The application argues that the new shop, which will sell between 4,000 and 5,000 items compared to up to 30,000 in main M&S stores, will benefit the nearby parade of shops on Leeds Road by offering additional parking and drawing in more visitors. Shoppers will be able to park at Marks and Spencer and visit the rest of the parade, where the company believes parking is currently insufficient.

Referring to the impact on other businesses, the application said: “Given the nature of the site, it is considered that it is likely to draw trade from a localised area and will have negligible effects upon existing trading patterns or on store performance across the town.

“There may be some modest effects upon the smaller stores within the Leeds Road centre with which it will compete directly.”

Improvements to the junction between Leeds Road and Hookstone Road are included in the application and cars would access the site from Beech Avenue, leaving via Coronation Road.

The documents state that core shoppers are expected to be within a seven-minute drive of the shop, but there will be some passing trade including from the tourism and conference industry.

The total floor space would be around 3,000m sq, around half of which is sales area – compared to the 1,320m sq food hall in the town centre Marks and Spencer. Between 55 and 85 per cent of the floor space would be for food sales, with the rest used for “comparison” or non-perishable goods.

Residents responding to the consultation raised several issues relating to the potential impact on traffic from the new store. Having taken them into consideration, the developer plans to move the pedestrian refuge on Leeds Road to the south of the junction with Beech Avenue, widen the footpath near the bus stop on Leeds Road and improve the pedestrian crossing over Hookstone Avenue.

The proposed shop would be open from 8am to 11pm from Monday to Saturday and on bank holidays, and for six hours between 10am and 6pm on Sundays, with deliveries between 7am and 7pm from Mondays to Saturdays and 8.30am to 7pm on Sundays. Fifty new full-time jobs are expected to be created.

Marks and Spencer has pledged to make the new store energy efficient and to make improvements to biodiversity and ecology in the surrounding area.

The planning application shows the company also considered a site at Station Parade, as part of the proposed transport interchange or in the former Habitat building, but it was thought to be too close to the existing Marks and Spencer shop in Cambridge Street.

A third site, at the former cattle market in Knaresborough, was also deemed inappropriate because the main need for a food store was in the south-west of Harrogate.

l To view or comment on the application, visit www.harrogate.gov.uk/planning and use application reference number 12/00816/FULMAJ.