D-day for £24m supermarket plan

DECISION day for a Morpeth supermarket bid has arrived.

And Dransfield Properties, which put together a detailed application for a 50,000 sq ft food store in Low Stanners after receiving outline permission last year, has received a boost ahead of tonight’s meeting as planning officers at Northumberland County Council are recommending approval.

The £24million development would provide up to 290 jobs and include landscaping.

A lower level long-stay car park for 283 cars would be built, as well as a store-level short-stay car park with 296 spaces.

Detailed public consultation was carried out earlier this year, but a number of residents in Staithes Lane next to the site still have concerns.

They believe the noise of delivery wagons along the lane would have a serious impact, the building is not in keeping with the rest of the area and not enough is being done to alleviate traffic along Dark Lane, which they fear would lead to a lot of drivers using the lane as a rat-run.

A letter of objection has also been submitted on behalf of all the residents of Silvas Court, a block of flats located on the corner of Dacre Street and Dark Lane, as they are worried about the traffic and noise implications relating to the upper tier car park.

It says: “We believe it to be essential to introduce effective control measures both on the approaches to and within the car park itself.

“Effective control measures must also be introduced to minimise noise nuisance at night.”

However, some residents believe it will be good for the town and more than a dozen letters of support have been lodged.

And in a report about the application, officers say: “Due to the proximity to the town centre the store can clearly be of benefit by bringing further shoppers to the town centre (increasing the footfall and improving the vitality and viability) and through the generation of linked trips, benefiting existing shops and services.

“Although the quantitative need for the store is marginal it is considered that the combined qualitative benefits outweigh any concerns – the broader benefits support the town centre and the development strategy for Morpeth.”

Fears have also been expressed about the site being close to the river, given the area’s flooding history.

But it is deemed by the officers that it is suitable for the development, subject to conditions to provide mitigation measures as detailed in a submitted Flood Risk Assessment.

It will also be necessary to agree a flood emergency evacuation plan.

In spatial terms, the site lies outside the primary shopping area defined in the Local Plan.

But it will be assessed as ‘edge of centre’ given its relatively short distance to Sanderson Arcade, Morpeth Bus Station and the Morrisons store.

If the development gets the go-ahead, family-run garage T Thompson and Sons is moving to new larger premises in a former car showroom and workshop in Coopies Lane.

And the town’s oldest veterinary practice, Robson and Prescott, could be moving to bigger purpose-built premises.

The plans for a new Veterinary Centre at the former Salt Depot at Whorral Bank will also be considered by the North Area Planning Committee in Alnwick this evening.

The new surgery would allow the practice, which employs around 50 people, to grow and have a separate area for equine and farm animals. This has been recommended for approval.

The Old Red Bull Inn would be demolished under the supermarket plans.

Retail Property Director at Dransfield Properties Andrew Malley said: “This is an important development for the town centre. Making sure we get this right and come forward with a scheme from which the town can benefit and be proud of has been our priority.

“We have worked with residents and local stakeholder groups to bring forward a development which not only links in well with the town centre but is an attractive, well-designed building which will stand the test of time.

“Morpeth is a beautiful market town which has a diverse and vibrant town centre and we want to ensure that we build on that and continue to be part of the town’s success with this development.”