Clarification of clothing condition worries traders

Heighley Gate Garden Centre near Morpeth.
Heighley Gate Garden Centre near Morpeth.

A bid to alter a condition relating to the sale of clothing at Heighley Gate Garden Centre, near Morpeth, was narrowly approved last week.

At last Thursday’s meeting of Northumberland County Council’s north area planning commitee, those members supporting the change felt that the current condition was difficult to enforce.

Therefore it was approved to ensure that the planning authority has some control over the amount and type of clothing sold, despite concerns from a number of traders over the impact on Morpeth town centre.

Heighley Gate can sell a limited amount of non-core items, which includes ‘outdoor clothing’, but prior to the change, there was no limitation on how much of the non-core area (more than 5,000 sq m) can be used per category.

The permission now allows the sale of clothing and shoes up to a maximum of 2,000sq m, with around 1,300 sq m currently used.

The planning officer also pointed out that a recent appeal over the term ‘outdoor clothing’ ruled that it could mean anything worn outside, so the four members who supported the proposal felt the new condition avoided any further issues.

Representatives of Morrisons, which is trying to market its former town-centre store to new occupants, and Dransfield Properties, which owns Sanderson Arcade, spoke against the plans.

Coun Gavin Jones moved deferral so the council’s economic team could assess the impact on Morpeth town centre, despite the applicant providing a retail impact assessment. Coun Alan Sambrook seconded this motion.

Coun Isabel Hunter added: “I would agree with Coun Jones because we have had applications in Morpeth to change shops into residential premises.”

But Coun Heather Cairns said: “I would not agree in that it’s a clarification; they already have the ability to put lots more outdoor clothing in a much larger space.”