Plans for Cheshire Oaks flagship Marks and Spencer store given green light
THE biggest investment proposed by Marks and Spencer outside London in the past decade has won the Šbacking Šof councillors in West Cheshire and Chester.
Plans for a 150,000 square feet store atŠCheshire Oaks, Ellesmere Port, will be examined by a Špublic inquiry on June 6.
The company’s planning application was called in by the Secretary ofŠState following objections from several neighbouring authorities, includingŠLiverpool and the former ChesterŠCityŠand Cheshire County Councils.
But, after hearing guarantees from Marks and Spencer Šthat the proposal would not affect the future of the company’sŠ Chester stores, the new authority’s strategic planning committee decided to back the venture at the inquiry by nine votes to two.
Members heard the proposed store would create 400 jobs in one of the most deprived areas ofŠWest Cheshire and was “a tremendous vote of confidence in Ellesmere Port – particularly in the present financial climate.”
An accompanying package of obligations included environmental plans and promises from the shopping chain to pay for changes in the transport infrastructure and continue to work with residents on a nearby housing estate to address their concerns.
Mr Sacha Berendji, head of property planning at M&S, told members: "Marks and Spencer will be investing more in this flagship development than in any other development outside LondonŠ over the past decade –Šand probably in the next decade as well. There will be nothing quite like it in the country.
There has been concern about the viability of the Chester stores if this development is agreed, but we can guarantee that they will remain open. We have obviously done our research and, with 7m visitors a yearŠtoŠCheshire Oaks, there is no doubt in our minds that there is a place for all three.”
Cllr Brian Bailey emphasised his support for the regeneration of Ellesmere Port, but was concerned that “the plans were contrary to local, regional and planning criteria and did not meet any of the sequential tests”.
But members agreed with the officer’s recommendation that concerns about the proposed development were outweighed by the considerable advantages toŠEllesmere Port in the areas of employment, the local economy, improvements to the transport infrastructure and expansion of its retail base.
The retailers will lead a green travel plan initiative and encourage others on the Cheshire Oaks to follow suit.
Ideas include cycle paths, car sharing and a shuttle bus. THE POST