Winchester M&S food store bid facing rejection

Daily Echo: SUPPORTER: Councillor Chris Pines says the proposed shop would bring dozens of jobs. SUPPORTER: Councillor Chris Pines says the proposed shop would bring dozens of jobs.

MARKS & Spencer’s plans for a new food store in Winchester are poised to hit a major setback tomorrow.

Planning officers are recommending that city councillors reject plans to convert the former Hendy Ford car dealers’ base in Easton Lane, Winnall, into a ‘Simply Food’ store.

A report to the planning committee said that the council has a ‘town centre first’ policy for new shops, whereas this plan is on the edge of the city.

Case officer Megan Osborn said: “The proposal could have significant adverse impact on existing, committed and planned investment, particularly in Winchester city centre.”

The officers say that there are better sites available, including 14 within the city centre.

The reference to planned investment in the city centre includes the Silver Hill Renaissance, a joint £130m scheme between the city council and Henderson Global Investors.

The approved plans include a relocated Sainsbury’s store of a similar size to the M&S scheme.

A retail study in 2012 said that there was a need for 9,000 square metres of additional space in the city centre up to 2031.

Other potential sites for food retail redevelopment are the car parks at St Peter’s, Cossack Lane, Worthy Lane and the Carfax/railway station.

The proposal would see partial demolition of the building and a revamp to create 600 square metres of sales space and a 53-space car park.

A M&S spokesman said: “We are always looking to ensure we are in the right location to best serve our customers. If the development were to go ahead, a new Simply Food store at Easton Lane would complement our existing town centre store by enhancing choice and convenience and create 50 new jobs.”

The councillors are not bound to follow the guidance and so could still approve the scheme.

Local city councillor Chris Pines said that he supported the plans, not least because it would provide dozens of jobs in the hard-pressed Winnall area.

Cllr Pines also pointed out that the new M&S would compete not with the city centre but with the suburban stores, Waitrose and Aldi, in Stockbridge Road, Weeke.

He said: “There are already a number of retail premises along this stretch of road – Tesco, Scats, Halfords, Pets at Home, Homebase – so to refuse another similar application would be perverse and likely to be overturned on appeal.”

Civic watchdog the City of Winchester Trust does not object to the plans but has expressed concern about chronic traffic problems on Easton Lane.

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