Co-op loses bid to build new store in North Staffordshire village

Proposals for a new Co-op store in a North Staffordshire village have been thrown out over concerns it would be built near an 'already dangerous and over-trafficked junction'. Bosses had earmarked land in Werrington in an effort to replace the neighbourhood's existing branch.

And as reported by StokeonTrentLive the scheme on a derelict farm off Ash Bank Road won the backing of council planners who had recommended it should be given the green light. But members of Staffordshire Moorlands District Council's planning committee voted to turn it down having raised concerns over road safety with the Co-op told 'you’re trying to fit something in that doesn’t fit.'.

The retailer, which has stores across North Staffordshire, had said its existing shop on Washerwall Lane was too small and 'no longer fit for purpose'. The subsequent application saw Werrington Parish Council along with several local residents lodge objections.

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During the district council's planning meeting, local councillor Ross Ward spoke of his issues with the proposed build. He said: "The glaringly obvious reason for rejecting this proposal is safety. This application suggests closing the existing Co-op in the very heart of the village and moving it across the other side of one of the busiest roads in the Moorlands, right next to an already dangerous and over-trafficked junction.”

Resident Spencer Hodgetts, who has lived on Ash Bank Road for 19 years, told the committee: "I’ve long been concerned about the speed of traffic coming downhill over the brow of the hill and past my house trying to beat traffic lights on green. The speed is often in excess of 60 mph, that is my estimate."

Spencer believed the location of the proposed new plan would lead to an increase in collisions. The relocation of the store would have retained 14 jobs and created an extra four.

Katia Clarke, the planning agent for the Co-op, told councillors that further expansion of the current store is not practical or viable and that the only option is to relocate. She said: “Members will no doubt be aware of the Co-op's existing store on Washerwall Lane which despite being well used by the local community is small, outdated and no longer reflects latest operational requirements, nor provides a modern shopping experience for customers.

“The relocation site is ideally located to serve existing customers being centrally located within the village and just 180 metres away from the existing store. The proposals will provide a larger, enhanced, purpose built store with wider aisles and a greater variety and quantity of stock.

“Most importantly the proposals will secure Co-ops long term presence within Werrington, preventing the loss of a well used local facility.”

Despite part of the site being located in the greenbelt, the applicant argued ‘very special circumstances’ exist due to the fact that the greenbelt is surrounded by houses. They said that the development would amount to ‘infilling’ and therefore would comply with planning rules.

Councillor Paul Roberts raised concerns over the proposed entrance being close to traffic lights - and said the earmarked crossing 300 metres away wouldn't be used. He said: "I can guarantee people won’t be walking 300 metres up the road to cross the road , they’ll be crossing where the traffic lights are. It’s utterly ridiculous and I can’t support this application, you’re trying to fit something in that doesn’t fit.”

Planning committee chairman, Peter Wilkinson said: “I’ve got major concerns of the relocation of this store to a major route where we’ve got a 40 mph speed limit.”

The planning committee voted to refuse the application on the basis of design and lack of high quality and value to the local area.

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