WISBECH: Council loses fight to stop expansion of Belgrave out of town shopping centre
A BID to control out of town shopping expansion in Wisbech has been dealt a blow after a Government inspector agreed to allow expansion of the Belgrave Retail Park in Sandown Road. Fenland District Council had refused to give permission for another shop t
A BID to control out of town shopping expansion in Wisbech has been dealt a blow after a Government inspector agreed to allow expansion of the Belgrave Retail Park in Sandown Road.
Fenland District Council had refused to give permission for another shop to be built there after ruling that any expansion of the site would have a detrimental impact on shops in the town centre.
That ruling, however, has been thrown out on appeal with Harold Stephens, the Government appointed inspector, declaring that "the vitality and viability of the nearby town centre would not be seriously affected".
Mr Stephens heard evidence that the proposed retail unit would have a turnover of �2.3 million a year but he did not believe this would threaten other local traders. He did not accept Fenland Council's view that 80 per cent of that figure would be derived from existing Wisbech traders.
The inspector said a year ago Wisbech town centre had only 19 vacant units, representing just fewer than 8 per cent of the total units, but a year later this has grown to 30 vacant units, 11.9 per cent.
However he felt that with many listed buildings and a conservation area in the town, this was "perceived to be a constraint in relation to some potential locations. I accept that Wisbech town centre has slipped in terms of national retail ranking, however rental yields within the centre have been relatively stable since 2002, with a 2.5 per cent increase over six years ago."
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He concluded: "Overall from the evidence that is before me and from my site visit, I consider that Wisbech is a vital and viable town centre". Allowing the Belgrave site to expand would not materially harm the town centre nor risk future development of the town centre.
Indeed, concluded Mt Stephens, the new store would "deliver a number of positive effects to Wisbech" through addressing extending the range of goods available locally.