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South Kesteven District Council approves Grantham Downtown shopping village despite concerns it would 'kill off' Newark town centre

A £125m shopping village near Grantham has again been unanimously approved by a council despite concerns it would 'kill off' Newark town centre.

South Kesteven District Council's planning committee re-examined the outline plans from Downtown, originally approved in February 2019, last night (Thursday).

It follows the adoption of the council’s local plan and councillors were told by officers they should look at the decision with fresh eyes.

Downtown plans have been approved (51090167)
Downtown plans have been approved (51090167)

The plans include 107 designer outlet stores, 2,000 parking spaces, offices, leisure provision likely to be indoor play areas for families — and a tourism information centre.

Downtown had made minor amendments to how the office spaces for management staff will be used.

The shopping centre will also include a training academy with Grantham College to deliver skills opportunities.

Downtown plans have been approved (51090156)
Downtown plans have been approved (51090156)

Peter Isaac, Oldrids and Co Limited’s finance director, told councillors the plans to regenerate the Grantham site would look to the future.

“We are not alone in experiencing one of the most challenging retail environments, that is why this application is so crucial,” he said.

“It is vital businesses like ours continue to invest in Grantham to secure its future success,” he added, later noting support the business had given to local businesses and events.

Managing director Richard Broadhead said the company was as keen as ever to deliver the project and was critical of the continued receptive objections, which he said had served only to delay the valuable investments into Grantham.

“Ironically, without these we’d be preparing right now for the grand launch of Downtown in the comping weeks and looking forward to our first Christmas of trading.

“We care about Grantham and our neighbouring towns, we really do. We continue to co-exist. We now need to get on with this regeneration and deliver the benefits.”

Although the site was no longer designated for employment, officers said it passed several key tests regarding local retail impacts.

They said independent advice agreed with the applicants’ own assessments on the local economy. There were also restrictions on the centre including limiting what retailers could occupy the outlet and what the leisure centre could be used for.

Council officers considered to be no significant adverse impacts on other centres while 240 temporary construction jobs and 1,620 additional jobs would be created once finished.

Several councils, including Lincoln and Newark, had concerns that the development, along with another nearby £100 million outlet centre by Rioja Estates, could take trade away from town centres and high streets.

Other concerns centred around the expected additional traffic.

Mark Tombs from NTR Planning warned that the outlet would have a negative impact on the vacancy rates in the town and would compete with both the new development from Rioja and the town centre.

“Our analysis predicts untold damage to Grantham town centre as it will not trade as a tier one zone, but as a competing pseudo-town centre — the risks associated with that are too high,” he said.

Councillor Roger Blaney, chairman of Newark and Sherwood District Council, said his authority did not believe tests were passed, nor that controls would be effective.

He said retail assessments carried out in the last year showed a 60% increase in the impact.

“The direction of travel for retail is very clear, and I suggest the figures would be far worse today for both towns,” he said.

Councillor Ian Selby said he felt the objections from nearby towns only reinforced what the outlet could bring to the area.

“When the other (towns) are objecting, that tells me… what a great application this is,” he said, praising the reinvigoration of a brownfield site.

“This company… they’re going to fly the flag for us… and I wish them all the best.”

Councillor Judy Smith said team Downtown had spoken from the heart during discussions.

“The way they are going they deserve a lot of success,” she said.

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