The Forest Hill Society has objected to plans for M&S Food in Bell Green, just as we did when Aldi was proposed for the neighbouring store.
DC/24/134364: Insertion of mezzanine floor in connection with the sub-division of Unit 5B, Bell Green Retail Park, Bell Green SE26
Impact on Local High Streets:
We are concerned that an additional supermarket in this location will pull more people from the existing high streets in Sydenham and Forest Hill. The opening of Savacentre (now Sainsburys) saw a series of closures in the high streets. The creation of Aldi in the Bell Green retail park in 2018 put further pressure on local high streets as a second large food retailer chose to open in this out of town centre rather than in one of the town centres. The opening of a third supermarket in this location will further exacerbate the decline in local district and town centres in this part of Lewisham.
We would refer to government guidelines on town centre development which states that:
The sequential test guides main town centre uses towards town centre locations first, then, if no town centre locations are available, to edge of centre locations, and, if neither town centre locations nor edge of centre locations are available, to out of town centre locations, with preference for accessible sites which are well connected to the town centre. It supports the viability and vitality of town centres by placing existing town centres foremost in both plan-making and decision-taking.
In this case it is clear that at least one potential site for a supermarket is available in a local town centre (vacated recently by Paddy Power in Forest Hill, which was once a Tesco store), and for this reason the planning department, in applying the appropriate sequential tests, should recognised that this location for a new supermarket is inappropriate at the present time.
Contrary to Core Strategy and Site Allocations:
Bell Green is designated as a local hub, which is secondary to the District Hubs (such as Forest Hill and Sydenham). Under the Bell Green specific part of Spatial Policy 4 the floorspace on the allocated site is limited to that which had permission at the time of the adoption of the Core Strategy - specifically to limit impact on adjacent town centres.
The Site Allocations Policy DPD allocates the Bell Green site as SA26 and whilst identifying the need for development clearly identifies a risk of impact on nearby town centres and a need to seek to reduce car dependency. This application is directly in contravention of the site allocation in both these regards. Existing planning permission and designation in the Core Strategy and Site Allocations Local Plan specifically excludes food retail, allowing only for A1 use for non-food retail.
Core Strategy, Spatial Policy 4, June 2011
1. Designate as an out-of-centre retail park within the Council’s retail hierarchy.
2. Limit the floorspace and range of goods sold to that contained in the granted planning permission to protect the viability of adjacent town centres.
https://www.lewisham.gov.uk/myservices/planning/policy/Documents/CoreStrategyAdoptedVersion.pdf (page 68)
Site allocations local plan, June 2013
SA26: Former Bell Green Gas Works (Phases 2 & 3), Perry Hill Sydenham, SE26 Phase 2: Mixed use business, industrial or warehouse, non-food retail and associated garden centre, restaurant, use of Livesey Memorial Hall as a social club Proposals for this out-of-centre site should be considered in the context of protecting existing town centres within the borough's hierarchy and, allow for comprehensive redevelopment of the site. Proposals should seek to reduce car dependency, improve public transport, cycling and walking access and promote more sustainable forms of development.
Ref: https://www.lewisham.gov.uk/myservices/planning/policy/LDF/siteallocations/Documents/SiteAllocationsAdoption.pdf (pp 91-92)
Further Development Management Policy 30 sets out that "the Council require all development proposals to attain a high quality of design". Which is not the case in this application because of the way it:
a) fails to create activity and frontage at ground level,
b) fails to create coherent built form that relates to the local topology,
c) does not make a positive relationship with existing townscape,
d) creates large areas of parking and servicing, and
e) fails to recognise the positive character of the existing gas holders or reflect its
positive qualities in the scheme.
Ref: https://www.lewisham.gov.uk/myservices/planning/policy/LDF/developmentpolicies/Documents/DMLPAdoption.pdf (page 85)
As a result of the issues above, we ask the planning authority to reject this application as being contrary to URB 18d, DM Policy 30, Spatial Policy 4, and national policy on supporting high streets.
We would encourage retailed such as M&S Food to look for suitable locations close to Forest Hill and Sydenham Town Centres for new stores, which we are sure would be welcomed by residents.