Co-op in planning row over this North Staffordshire store

A village's Co-op store is set to move to a new site in the Green Belt - despite concerns over road safety. Plans for a new Co-op on a derelict farm off Ash Bank Road in Werrington have been recommended for approval by officers at Staffordshire Moorlands District Council, ahead of today's planning committee meeting

The store would replace the existing Co-op in Washerwall Lane, which the retailer says is now too small and 'no longer fit for purpose'. Werrington Parish Council has objected to the plans, saying that the addition of a new access point onto the 40mph Ash Bank Road, close to the crossroads with Washerwall Lane and Salters Lane, would be dangerous for motorists and pedestrians.

Highways officers withdrew their initial objections after the applicant agreed to a number of road safety measures, including dropped crossings and tactile paving on either side of Salters Lane and the widening of the footway between the site access and the traffic lights. In its application, the Co-op says that the existing store in Washerwall Lane falls below the retailer's current operational size requirements. Relocating to a larger store would result in the retention of 14 existing jobs and the creation of four new ones.

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The application states: "Like many businesses, it is of great importance to Co-op to deliver consistent customer experience and offer within all of their stores. The existing store in Werrington is dated, having last been refitted in 2014 and therefore is now overdue for review.

"The Co-op have considered various options to try and further improve and extend the existing store in Werrington in its current location, however, given the presence of residential units above the store and associated internal access staircases, this option is neither practical nor viable. To this end, the most appropriate solution to bring the store up to modern requirements in this instance is relocation."

The development would see the existing buildings at Stonehouse Farm demolished and replaced with a single-storey flat-roofed building, with 383 square metres of floorspace. There would be 17 parking spaces, and while one tree and part of a hedge would be removed, there would be a net gain in biodiversity with new trees, shrubs and hedges being planted.

Planning officers say that while the Ash Bank Road site is within the Green Belt, as it is surrounded by houses, the development would amount to 'infilling' and would therefore comply with planning rules.

In addition to the parish council, the application has also received objections from two members of the public, who also raised concerns over road safety.

The parish council's objection states: "It is felt that an access point in the position stated, onto a 40mph very busy road, would prove dangerous to both road users and pedestrians, and increase the likelihood of an accident. Queuing traffic would be increased, therefore decreasing the air quality, already an issue at the Cellarhead crossroads further up the road.

"With the majority of properties being on the opposite side of Ash Bank Road, many residents will need to cross in order to use the new retail facility. This will either require crossing the road in their car, either at the entrance to the development or further up Ash Bank Road, or by cycle or on foot."

But planning officers believe that these concerns will be addressed by the proposed road safety measures. The planning committee will discuss the application at its meeting on Thursday afternoon.

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