Inspector rejects retail park plans

Planning
Planning

An out-of-town retail park for Bicester has been rejected at appeal by a government planning inspector who agreed if it went ahead it would cause traffic congestion and have an adverse effect on future development.

The application for three retail units, three café/restaurant units, a gym and car park on land to the west of Oxford Road was initially refused by Cherwell District Council in October 2015.

Applicant CPG Development Projects Ltd appealed against the decision but department for communities and local government inspector Martin Whitehead has agreed with Cherwell.

Colin Clarke, Cherwell’s councillor for planning, said: “This application would have significantly increased the amount of traffic in the area but did not make any provisions for improving the road network or providing suitable public transport alternatives.

“A further review of this proposal has verified our concerns and confirmed we were right to deny permission based upon the traffic congestion and the adverse effect it would have on future development. Until we can be assured enough provisions are in place to mitigate the congestion which this development is sure to generate, the inspector agrees we cannot justify approving these proposals.”

The six-day planning inquiry took place in June and included a visit to the site. The hearing heard the increased traffic would cause ‘unacceptable traffic congestion’ at the junctions for the site with south-west Bicester and also at the entrance to Tesco.

The applicant had proposed including two bus stop laybys on the A41 to offer an alternative to private car use, but this was not enough to convince the inspector it would sufficiently address the increase in traffic.

In his written conclusion, inspector Michael Whitehead said: “I have found the proposal would have an adverse impact on the character and appearance of the proposed future residential development in the surrounding area and a harmful effect on the flow of traffic on the surrounding highway network and could have an unacceptable effect on local infrastructure. Therefore having regard to all matters raised I conclude that the appeal should fail.”

Richard Mallows, co-chairman of Bicester Traffic Action Group said although the group was pleased with the planning inspector’s decision as the site was near areas of air pollution, Bicester was a growing town and needed expanded retail facilities.

He said: “It is disappointing Cherwell District Council’s ‘masterplan’ has only considered housebuilding and not transport, leisure, green areas and retail. We therefore urge all parties to find a mutually beneficial alternative site. The locations previously designated for warehousing present ideal opportunities. Not only would a re-designation reduce HGV journeys which are known to be some of the most polluting vehicles but by switching them to retail would also create more job opportunities.”