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Worcester blocks edge-of-centre retail development anchored by High Street giants

Published: Thursday, 30th June 2016

21-hectare Worcester Woods development refused on the basis that it would have a significant adverse impact on the vitality and viability of retailers in Worcester City Centre…

Worcester City Council has refused permission for a significant out-of-centre retail scheme proposed by developer Land Securities for a greenfield site which was to be anchored by major players including John Lewis, Sainsbury’s, M&S, Next and PC World. Members agreed with their officers’ view that the scheme would damage the city centre.

The retail park, known as Worcester Woods, was earmarked for a 21-hectare site some 3.3 kilometres from the city centre and about four kilometres from the existing St John’s district centre and Sainsbury centre. A total of nearly 37,000 square metres of floor space was involved and the provision of over 1,100 car-parking spaces. The £150m development represented a scheme with more than a third of the floor space of the existing city centre.

Officers had recommended refusal on the grounds the proposed development would have a significant adverse impact of comparison goods retailing “to the detriment of the vitality and viability of existing centres, and in particular Worcester City centre”.

Officers also said the scheme did not include a “thorough, flexible sequential assessment” as required by national policy and key measures in the adopted South Worcestershire Development Plan.

Town centres and owners of retail parks around Worcester were concerned about the scheme. The city council commissioned retail consultants DPDS Consulting to examine the proposals. It concluded that “the sequential test has not been met and the application proposal would have a significant adverse impact on the city centre and therefore recommend planning permission is refused”.

The surrounding area of the scheme is a mixture of residential, care home, commercial and open space and community uses, which include the Worcester Royal hospital. The site itself is currently identified as suitable for B1 and B2 employment, care home use as well as possible hospital expansion.

View the planning application

Roger Milne