A Next Home and Garden store at Meadowhall would ‘not have any unacceptable impact on investor or retail confidence, nor on the vitality and viability of Sheffield city centre’.
That is the conclusion of Planning Inspector David Wildsmith after a week-long public inquiry to consider an appeal against Sheffield Council’s refusal of planning permission for the store on Vulcan Road.
It also emerged the cost to council tax payers of Sheffield Council defending the appeal was £31,261.
Mr Wildsmith heard evidence from both the council and developer British Land.
The property firm, which owns Meadowhall shopping centre, argued Sheffield Council’s planning policies restricting out of town shopping schemes were based on out-of-date regional planning strategy.
The council replied that the store would take shoppers from the city centre - and said a suitable alternative site was available at the current Staples office store on St Mary’s Gate.
But Mr Wildsmith accepted British Land’s claim that Next would have to ‘compromise’ its plans to fit onto St Mary’s Gate - something he said would be ‘excessive and unreasonable’.
And he added the Staples site was not immediately available.
Mr Wildsmith said the Next store ‘should not be regarded as an extension of the shopping centre’ so would not breach the council’s planning policy against expanding Meadowhall.
The council’s argument that the store would hit city centre retailers was weakened with the removal of an objection from The Moor’s management company, Scottish Widows.
Mr Wildsmith said the estimated impact of the store would be a 0.26 per cent decrease in city centre trade.
The cost to the council of defending the appeal includes £25,000 for ‘retail consultant fees’, £4,575 to hire a barrister, and £508 to remove furniture from the council chamber to allow the inquiry to go ahead at the Town Hall.
The cost of planning officers’ time spent creating a report for the original planning committee meeting where the store was refused has not been revealed.
In his conclusion, Mr Wildsmith added the number of jobs created by Next would be ‘particularly beneficial in an area where local communities suffer high levels of unemployment’.
* Opinion: P8
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