Claims that the approved retail park for Leighton Buzzard is in “serious doubt”, have this week been refuted by the developers.
EDS Holdings has just submitted proposals for an alternative shopping site at the Camden site, off Grovebury Road.
And as part of its planning application, EDS claimed the earlier scheme by the Claymore Group may be in jeopardy.
Back in November 2013, Claymore received outline planning permission for the £15million Grovebury Road project which included proposals for a DIY store, four smaller warehouse units for bulky goods retailers and a standalone restaurant.
Homebase, Pets at Home, Dreams furniture and Bensons For Beds were said at the time to have registered their interest in the planned units on the 2.4 hectare site.
With approval from Central Beds Council in the bag and a High Court challenge from local campaigner Victoria Harvey – who said the park would threaten the future of independent traders in Leighton town centre – fended off, it left Claymore free to press ahead with its plans once the remaining reserved matters on the planning application were settled with Central Beds Council.
But with just months to go before the three-year timeframe to submit their reserved matters application expires, a report prepared for EDS by Indigo Planning Ltd casts doubt on whether Claymore will plough ahead with the retail park.
However on Friday, Stephen Cole, co-founder of the Claymore Group, told the LBO their scheme was not in doubt.
He said: “The Grovebury Road scheme is coming forward. We are very far advanced and in contact with a number of key tenants.
“I know the council are very supportive of the scheme.
“We are very excited by it and it was very frustrating when it was held up [by the High Court challenge].
Mr Cole said the Claymore Group was looking forward to starting building work next year and said the company was on target to submit the reserved matters application shortly and “well within” the November deadline.
On EDS’s Camden site there are currently warehouses and commercial/industrial buildings in poor condition.
Their outline application seeks six non-food retail units totalling 6,227sq metres, and five trade counter/motorist centre units totalling 1,121sq metres and providing “important local jobs”.
The application, which includes 324 parking spaces, states that the latter units would be “likely to accommodate” clients such as Screwfix,Tile Giant, Plumb Center, car mechanics, tyre fitters and associated workshops.
The Indigo report had speculated that the delay with Claymore’s rival retail park could be due to the fact that Tesco’s expansion of its Vimy Road site – which would have involved Homebase being demolished and potentially relocating to Grovebury Road – was never implemented.
It states: “With the downturn in the DIY market there is unlikely to be any interest in the premises.
“Given the lack of activity in relation to this application and considerable work still required to discharge conditions to enable for consent to be implemented, particularly within a limited timeframe, we consider that there are serious doubts over whether the development will be implemented at all.”
The Indigo report adds: “It is clear from existing shopping patterns that Leighton Buzzard residents do not currently have access to the range of comparison goods needs that they require and they are travelling significant distances to meet those needs.
“In our view this need cannot be exclusively met by the town centre and there is considerable requirement for additional comparison goods retailing of a different format to that which can be accommodated within the town centre.”
The report says the town centre is “healthy, vital and viable” with a good diversity of uses, low vacancy rates despite significant expenditure leakage to other retail parks and Milton Keynes.
It adds that even if the Claymore park comes to fruition, the EDS scheme – which will provide 80-90 jobs – will not have a cumulative “significant adverse impact” on the town centre.
Last July EDS received planning permission to build a small convenience store to the south eastern corner of the site.
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