Monday, 27 July 2009

Problems with the Low Stanners Scheme

The trouble is – if too much detail is put into the outline planning application – then we are locked into a rushed scheme which may not be the best possible option. I’ve heard a number of concerns:

i) the urban design of the site – with the supermarket backing onto the river – is poor, and not well-integrated into the town centre or the river walks.
ii) Loss of the Red Bull to provide access for delivery lorries. A building is going to be needed at the ‘front’ of the site as i) – I reckon at a pinch the Red Bull could afford to lose the modern extension but stay in place
iii) Traffic levels: we’re told there’ll be about 14 delivery lorries a day, which could be kept between the hours of 7am and 10pm – that’s about one an hour. Then assuming access to the 167 space longstay carpark is concentrated 7-9am and 4-6pm, that’ll be 80 additional vehicle movements an hour along Staithes Lane for four hours a day.

Saturday, 25 July 2009

Mark’s Cunning Plan

When the Morrisons & Back Riggs development started, Government planning guidance required retail developers to prove that a ‘need’ existed and that the location of the development was the nearest developable site to the town centre (the sequential test). A consultants’ study ‘demonstrated’ that the expanded Morrison’s would meet the ‘food shopping need’ of Morpeth for the foreseeable future.

Unfortunately, the Government then moved the goalposts – and now require demonstrable competition and proof of ‘demand’ – though the ‘sequential test’ remains. So Mark Dransfield’s ‘cunning plan’ is to use his ‘Low Stanners’ proposal to demonstrate that a second supermarket – providing competition – can be built close to the town centre, so that the out of town proposals from Sainsbury and Tesco are thrown out.

For some reason – the existence of Morrisons, Lidl, Iceland, M&S, three butchers, two bakers, two greengrocers, two delis and a cheese shop in Morpeth town centre does not meet the Government requirement for ‘competition’. And, the rumoured appearance of a small Sainsbury’s on the Market Place when M&S move into the Arcade isn’t likely to change this.

So – all Mark needs is outline planning permission with enough detail to show the plan is viable. The siting of the supermarket, carparks, delivery access etc ideally needs further consideration…

And I’m not sure he has the OK from the Environment Agency yet.

Thursday, 23 July 2009

Culture Shock! Shopping Hours in Morpeth

Well - so the refurbished Sanderson Arcade will open on Nov 12th, with the new M&S and the town centre car park opening a couple of months earlier.

I gather that the Arcade will be open 9am-8pm Mon-Sat and 11am-5pm on Sundays - which will come as a bit of a shock to the independent shopkeepers on Bridge St and Newgate who are struggling to cope with 9am-5pm Mon-Fri and 9am-2pm on Sat. Of course the supermarkets and some chain stores already open long hours, seven days a week.

Morpeth is already busy at weekends - especially with summer visitors - so maybe we need a bit of a rethink about the best times to open, though I know it is difficult for small shopkeepers and coffee shops to cover long opening hours.

However - having shops open till 8pm will help towards filling the notorious 'dead zone' between the shops closing at 5pm and Morpeth's 'evening economy' starting up around 7pm.