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Plan for redevelopment of Winchester's Hendy Ford site rejected
Councillors have thrown out plans for an out-of-town Marks and Spencer food store after pressure from the firm behind a £130m city centre redevelopment.
Civic chiefs voted against allowing the conversion of the former Hendy Ford car dealership in Easton Lane, Winnall, Winchester, into a Simply Food store after hearing it could threaten the Silver Hill scheme.
Marks and Spencer (M&S) had already signed a deal agreeing to take over the site if planning approval is granted.
But it emerged that council officials had come under pressure from the developers of Silver Hill, a joint scheme between the city council and Henderson Global Investors.
In a letter, Henderson said: “The requirements of Marks and Spencer can be fully accommodated within the Silver Hill proposals and therefore any consent to an out-of-centre location at this time would be damaging to the viability of the Silver Hill development and in our view to the town centre as a whole.”
Officers said the council had a “town centre first” policy for new shops and there were better sites available, including 14 within the city centre.
Steve Opacic, Winchester City Council’s head of strategic planning, was also critical of M&S’s stance during negotiations.
“We have invited M&S to come and meet with officers to see if there is anything we can do but it’s very clear that there is no flexibility in M&S’s requirements.
“They want it well away from the town centre as that will compete with their current town centre site. They also made their conditions even more stringent by saying they wanted to be near Tesco so they could pick up some of the trade from that store,” he said.
Other potential sites for food retail redevelopment are the car parks at St Peter’s, Cossack Lane, Worthy Lane and the Carfax/railway station.
This proposal would have seen partial demolition of the building and a revamp to create 600 square metres of sales space, a 53-space car park, and dozens of jobs.
Robert Morray, of M&S, said the company is looking to offer two separate business models in the city, one on the edge of town and one in the centre.
“Please help us to grow our business in your town, invest in it, and create 60 new jobs,” he said.
But officers said the site is industrial and any use of it would likely result in new jobs.
Councillor Therese Evans said approving the application would be like “driving a horse and carriage through the city’s planning policies”.
She added: “Silver Hill is a multi-million pound scheme and negotiations are ongoing. We as a community should not be doing anything that would detract from the vibrancy of our town centre.”
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