Tuesday, 22 September 2009

Crunch Time at Low Stanners

I understand that Mark Dransfield’s application for a supermarket on Low Stanners is designed mainly to pre-empt applications for edge of town supermarkets by demonstrating that a site nearer to the town centre is viable, and by providing the necessary level of ‘choice’ required by national planning guidelines.

But the three applications cannot be considered together – so we could end up with three new supermarkets in Morpeth.

Mark (I’m sure he doesn’t mind me calling him Mark) is only going for outline permission, so a lot of his plan is ‘indicative’

- but some of these ‘indicative’ elements are essential to demonstrate that the site is viable – and it would be useful if these ‘fixed’ elements of the indicative design are made clear. In other words – what can’t be changed once outline permission is granted.

I have been lobbied heavily by residents of Low Stanners, especially Staithes Lane, whose main concerns are:

  • Traffic levels
  • Noise and light pollution
  • Overnight security in the car parks (including recycling centre)

There is also a strong lobby opposed to the demolition of the Red Bull Inn, for both community and heritage reasons. This proposed demolition seems only to be part of the indicative design, it needs to be clarified whether demolition of the Red Bull would be included in the outline permission.

Choice and Need
Morpeth has Morrisons, Lidl, M&S (main store from November), Iceland and a significant number of independent food shops – not to mention a thriving market. It is not clear to me that there is not already adequate choice meeting local need.

Traffic and Car Parking
The scheme has a loss of 29 longstay car parking spaces (194 down to 165), and it is a moot point whether the 300 short stay car parking spaces will allow or encourage people to shop in the town centre whilst parking at Low Stanners – or whether they would just be shopping at the supermarket.
The longstay carparking will probably fill up 7-9am and empty 4.30-6.30pm – that is there will be two two-hour periods with 80 vehicles an hour joining or leaving Dark Lane from Staithes Lane. In addition, Dransfield estimates that there will be 14 lorry deliveries a day between the hours of 7am and 10pm (approx) – so on average there will be four lorry deliveries during these peak congestion periods.
The suggestion that traffic lights be installed at the two junctions is welcome

It is not clear whether the proposal has been endorsed by the Env Agency. Currently there is 60% impervious cover on the site, with 40% allowing soak away. The development will have 100% impervious cover so that all rainfall will need to runoff and so will be entirely dependent on effective gulleys and drainage channels. The prospect of contaminated runoff entering the Cotting Burn or the Wansbeck will be increased.
The loss of hedging and trees will also reduce local water soakup.

Trees and Wildlife
The Cotting Burn and Wansbeck are designated wildlife corridors – including significant widths of the bank to be effective. Re-alignment of the Cotting Burn is very likely to disrupt wildlife and will destroy the local habitat. Locating the rear of the supermarket – with lights, smells, noise etc for 16-20 hours a day – hard on the river bank will disrupt the main Wansbeck wildlife corridor, as well as threatening the tranquillity of the riverside walk.
Loss of trees and established hedgerow will also destroy key habitat in the wildlife corridors.
And construction work will also disrupt wildlife

It is not clear that this site will be ‘integral’ with the town centre shopping ‘hubs’, with primarily short stay car parking, it might just as well be an out of town supermarket
The 'indicative' layout does little to integrate the development with the town centre.

It is also not clear that Library-Willows site along the river is a suitable site for the proposed new Health Centre, Library and Info Centre complex. Certainly displacing that development from this site will delay the replacement facilities for Morpeth Cottage Hospital.

I hope the councillors on the North Area Planning Committee make the right decision for the right reasons! It's a tough one

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