Friday, 9 December 2011

Sainsbury's decision damages case for Waitrose, Knowle Society says

THE Knowle Society has officially objected to a revised Waitrose plan for the village, saying last week’s approval of a Sainsbury’s store for Dorridge threatens its prospects.

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The conservation group also raised concerns about road safety and the level of parking the plan would create.

Kimberley Developments has proposed putting a store on a former bowling green off the Red Lion car park in St John’s Close.

A scheme to put the store on the site of the village hall, which would be re-provided on the bowling green, was withdrawn last year.

Solihull Metropolitan Borough Council’s planning committee – which will decide the Waitrose plan – last Thursday approved a Sainsbury’s plan for Forest Court, Dorridge.

Yet the society said: “In light of the approval of the Sainsbury store in Dorridge we have real concerns that the retail offering in Knowle could be adversely affected due to the counter attraction of such a large store close by.

“In its potential impact on Knowle it can be compared to an ‘out-of-town’ supermarket, especially as its parking provision will, we are assured, be better than the congested parking in Knowle.”

In its official response to the council, the society said a “modest sized” store would “help to maintain Knowle as a local centre with its flourishing retail provision”.

But it said it had “significant concerns about this particular application”.

While Kimberley heralded a 24 per cent reduction in the overall size of the store, the society pointed out the 1,251sqm sales area from the last scheme had only been cut by seven per cent.

In its plan, Sainsbury’s said the sales area is the key figure as this drives demand for the store. The Knowle Tesco sales area is 557sqm.

And the letter, from society planning committee chairman Leighton Jones, re-iterated concerns over parking already submitted to the council.

It said: “The proposed provision is totally inadequate.

“I am particularly concerned that the statement made by Kimberley claiming an increase of 93 spaces is incorrect as it does not take into account the complete situation.

“If we are to benefit from a new foodstore, the parking situation needs to be greatly improved.”

He last month warned “grid-lock would be inevitable for much of the day” as overall parking to the west of the High Street would only increase from 264 to 305.

Waitrose has proposed 25 more spaces next to the 22-space Lodge Croft car park, off Lodge Road, near the junction with Station Road, currently garages and unused ground.

A further 15 parking spaces would be cut into the verge where Lodge Road leads into St John’s Close.

But Mr Jones’s latest letter says on-street parking would be “very hazardous” as spaces would be at a right angle, presenting safety risks when loading shopping.

And he said the loss of the access from St John’s Close directly to the Red Lion car park means users will have to use a “hazardous” access via the High Street.

He also raised concerns about visibility at the St John’s Close junctions with Lodge Road and Station Road.

And Mr Jones took issue with Kimberley’s argument that few extra cars would go into the village as there is already a high level of traffic for visits to shops.

He said: “If they switch to using the proposed store they would be focussed on St John’s Close, with obvious impacts.

“They cannot have it both ways, saying that the store will prevent trips away from Knowle yet saying that they will have no or little local impact.”

Kimberley’s statement that “Dorridge Station is an easy walk” is “plainly made by someone not having walked it” he added.

Mr Jones said: “It would be totally unrealistic to expect people to walk this with any significant amount of shopping.”

The planning application also says “nothing” about lighting, he added, and said the size and design of the brick store is “not sympathetic” to the area.

The council will make a decision on the store early next year.

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