Plans have been approved for the expansion of the Bluewater shopping centre in Kent, one of the UK's largest shopping malls, after planners concluded that there would be no negative impacts on neighbouring town centres which could not be mitigated.
The outline application, submitted to Dartford Borough Council, would see an overall increase of up to 30,000 square metres (gross external area) of retail and catering space.
It would also include the reconfiguration of the town square adjacent to the West Village entrance, the reconfiguration of the centre’s car park, and relocation of the coach park.
The application follows a previous outline application which was approved in 2013 and has since expired.
According to a planning report, neighbouring Gravesham Borough Council and Medway Council had opposed the latest application.
Among its grounds for objection, the report said that Medway questioned whether the retail impact testing supporting the application was "sufficiently robust" and said there was no "compelling evidence to suggest that Bluewater needs to expand or is under any threat from competitors".
Medway Council flagged similar concerns.
But Dartford Council planners went on to recommend approval.
The planning report said that development proposed in the previously approved outline application was larger than that proposed in the latest.
It said that the previous application proposed 30,500 square metres of additional floorspace local "in a single large expansion to the West Village" and the latest application "proposes a much smaller West Village expansion which will result in this element being less of a destination in its own right".
"Whilst this permission has now expired, it is still an important material consideration in relation to this application as in my view there have been no significant changes in either the local situation or the policy position that would warrant a different decision", the report said.
With regard to retail impacts on neighbouring towns, the report said that a retail impact assessment and independent retail advice commissioned by the council concluded that there would be "no material impacts on neighbouring town centres or more comparable higher order centres, which cannot be mitigated, as a result of the development".
The report said that planners were "satisfied that combined with the suggested conditions, the proposal will assist in reinforcing Bluewater's role as a specialist regional comparison centre that provides a shopping experience distinct from that found at neighbouring centres, compliant with local policy".
The report said that there was no need to refer the application to the secretary of state as the proposals did not trigger any criteria for referal. It also said that the secretary of state had refused a request from Gravesham Borough Council to call in the previous application.
Medway Council and Gravesham Borough Council were asked for comment on the approval but both declined to do so.
source: Planning Magazine
Bluewater shopping mall, retail planning, planning permission for extension to commercial premises
Please complete all mandatory fields(*). We will reply to all enquiries ASAP.