Many residents in Dartford will have today received a letter from Lidl, stating their intention as Owners of the former Police Station site on Instone Road to redevelop the site as a new mixed-use development, incorporating a neighbourhood discount food store and six residential units. They are planning to hold a public consultation in connection with this new proposal on Tuesday 4 November at the Spilman Suite, Holy Trinity Church, High Street, Dartford.
Lidl’s had previously submitted a planning application in 2011 for this site which was turned down by Dartford Borough Council. So why was this previous application turned down by DBC?
The planning application was submitted to DBC in November 2011 11/01413/FUL Erection of 1502m2 retail store (Class A1) with 79 associated car parking spaces – Former Dartford Police Station Site, Instone Road, Dartford, Kent. The application was considered by the Development Control Board at their meeting on 19 April 2012 and the report put before this meeting by planning officials recommended refusal for five reasons:-
- The Local Planning Authority is of the opinion that the proposal would adversely impact the vitality and viability of Dartford Town Centre given the site’s edge-of-centre location and will undermine the Council’s strategy for the regeneration of the town centre. In this location and with a demonstrated lack of need, trade and footfall will be drawn away from the town centre and will undermine investment in the centre. The extent of linked trips with the town centre arising from the proposal is unlikely to compensate for this. The proposal is therefore considered to be contrary to Policies CS 2 and CS 12 of the adopted Core Strategy 2011. The proposal is also contrary to the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) in that it will not support the vitality and viability of Dartford Town Centre.
- Contrary to the NPPF, the applicant has failed to demonstrate flexibility on the format of the proposals or a willingness to engage with landowners/managers on alternative sites. There is little evidence that sites which would support the Council’s strategy for revitalisation of the town centre have been given proper consideration.
- The site is identified in the Council’s Strategic Housing Land Availability Assessment (SHLAA) as being a suitable previously developed site for housing and benefits from an extant planning permission for flats that is compliant with the Council’s adopted Core Strategy 2011. It forms part of the five year supply of deliverable sites. The site is also identified as falling within a Priority Area based on it being developed for housing. Unlike a retail use, residential development in this location is likely to improve the vitality and viability of the town centre in accordance with the NPPF and the approval of alternative developments on sites identified in the SHLAA and Priority Area could result in the Council’s failure to fulfil its housing delivery targets and successfully implement policies CS 2 and CS 10 (point 1). There is therefore policy support for the development of this site for housing.
- The proposal is of a poor design, whilst the choice of materials is out of keeping with the area. As such, the proposal does little to improve the character and quality of the area, contrary to the NPPF and Policy B1(c) of the adopted Local Plan 1995.
- The applicant has failed to commit to an appropriate level of financial contributions towards town centre infrastructure, as required by Policy CS 16 of the adopted Core Strategy 2011.
The minutes of this meeting show that the Board considered a report in connection with the above application for the erection of 1502m²retail store (Class A1) with 79 associated car parking spaces. Members attention was drawn to the update circulated and advised that the applicant had submitted revised drawings and also additional letters of support had been received. Following the concerns raised, the Chairman explained the numerous reasons why the applicants had not been successful in registering to speak at the meeting. The Board discussed the reasons for refusal, and although Members welcomed the principle of the retail store (Lidl) in the Town Centre, in the adopted Core Strategy the application site was not identified for retail use. The Board expressed its disappointment with the consultation methods used by the applicant and that they continued to pursue the site even when officers had advised them of the position in January 2011.
So what has changed and why should Lidl’s application be agreed to this time round?
To my knowledge, and I am sure that I will be corrected if wrong, there has been no change to the Core Strategy in Dartford. If that is the case, the first point about ‘adversely impact the vitality and viability of Dartford Town Centre given the site’s edge-of-centre location and will undermine the Council’s strategy for the regeneration of the town centre’ is unchanged.
Point 2, ‘There is little evidence that sites which would support the Council’s strategy for revitalisation of the town centre have been given proper consideration’ – will there be any evidence put forward of other sites being considered? If not, the position on that topic again remains unaltered.
The latest proposal from Lidl suggests six residential units will be included in the new application. Will this be sufficient to address the housing issues raised in point 3?
Points 4 and 5 could well be addressed by the new application.
The immediate reaction from Social Media users suggests to me that the majority of people would welcome Lidl’s proposals and that it should be actively encouraged. I suspect the proposed public consultation will echo this.
However, if I am right in the assumption regarding the Core Strategy, unless this changes, I fail to see how DBC can now agree to the amended proposals. On the other hand, with the Borough Elections set for next May, it will be interesting to see if any (or all) of the political parties will make this an election pledge.