Thursday, 8 March 2012

Council boss backs Knowle Waitrose

A COUNCIL boss has backed a Waitrose plan for Knowle, saying it would boost village trade.

Artists impression (new)

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The plan “pays sufficient regard to the character of Knowle when considered against the benefits” said Solihull Metropolitan Borough Council’s Gary Palmer.

Kimberley Developments wants to put a store on part of bowling green and neighbouring Red Lion car park off St John’s Close.

Councillors have yet to take a final decision on the scheme. Click here for previous stories.

He said: “The impacts must be balanced against the scheme benefits, including economic issues and the continued vitality and appeal of the local centre.”

Mr Palmer, head of design and development, said the store design and car parking areas had improved from a previous plan, to put the store on the site of the village hall.

This would have seen a new village hall built on the bowling green.

Mr Palmer added: “Connectivity with the High Street through pedestrian priority is improved.”

Yet he said the plan was “whilst not automatically harmful, visual impacts would occur”.

And he said a submission by the developer that the plan would not affect the village’s conservation area – which provides extra checks against development – was “inaccurate”.

Mr Palmer said in a report: “The site of the store is within the designated boundary and the construction of a large new building and alteration of the car parks clearly would have some impact.”

He said the council’s planning committee – which will make a final decision – will have to balance the impact against the “Government agenda for growth”.

Mr Palmer said: “It is critical to balance visual impacts against economic, visual and social benefits that it might generate.”

There is “substantial evidence” that such plans can benefit existing traders by preventing residents from shopping elsewhere.

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