Price is just about right for Asda, say city planners

CONTROVERSIAL proposals for an Asda superstore near Crystal Peaks could be given the go-ahead next week, although the case for and against is described as being “finely balanced”.

Despite a protest from the owners of Crystal Peaks shopping centre, city planners have concluded that permission should be granted for the redevelopment of the Home Decor Innovations site off Beighton Road East.

Councillors will decide on Monday whether to accept or reject the officers’ advice.

They are under pressure from some local people – 170 representations of support were received – to approve the scheme on the basis of a predicted 450 jobs, the convenience, the extra choice and an alternative to travelling to Asda at Handsworth. At the same time, 54 objections were received, warning of a worsening of traffic congestion and the impact on Crystal Peaks.

Protests have also been lodged by Crystal Peaks owner Hermes, which says the development would hit the centre’s business, and Tesco, whose plans for a superstore at Oxclose, Halfway, were rejected by the council.

The Home Decor land is officially designated for business and industry and the council accepts that there would be some impact on Crystal Peaks, especially the Sainsbury’s store.

Yet one of the key benefits would be enabling Home Decor, which makes sliding doors and storage systems, to relocate to a new factory with new equipment, safeguarding 120 jobs and offering the prospect of increased turnover and more jobs within five years.

And, it is argued, there are no major obstacles, such as traffic, to the 24-hour Asda being built.

Although a report to councillors says Sainsbury’s would trade below the current national average for its stores, “Crystal Peaks is a healthy centre and it is considered on balance that the impact would not be sufficient to seriously impact the centre as a whole”.

The overall verdict is “finely balanced,” adds the report. “However it is concluded that the benefits of the proposals outweigh the impact on Crystal Peaks district shopping centre and lack of compliance with the industry and business policies. Given the general presumption in favour of sustainable economic development, it is considered that the proposal should be supported.”

Other possible locations, including the Territorial Army site at Manor Top, land next to Northern Foods off Drakehouse Way and the former Focus DIY store in the Drakehouse retail Park, were investigated and dismissed.

Planners accept there will be a “marginal worsening” of air quality as a result of the extra traffic, but it is not in a part of the city that has an air quality programme, they say.

If outline permission is granted, conditions will be attached to ensure development does not start until Home Decor has relocated, and it is guaranteed that the new factory is not smaller than the existing one.

Asda will be obliged to give a commitment to encouraging local employment and suppliers.

lAsda jobs boost, page 17.