BREAKING NEWS: Planners 20 page report gives THEIR verdict on 41,000 square foot supermarket plan for Soham

Taken from the developers plans submitted to East Cambridgeshire District Council, for the proposed

Taken from the developers plans submitted to East Cambridgeshire District Council, for the proposed superstore at Soham. - Credit: Archant

OFFICERS at East Cambs Council have concluded that a 41,000 square foot supermarket on the outskirts of Soham threatens town centre vitality and contravenes local and national retail policy.

Their long awaited assessment and recommendation to refuse the proposals by Harrier Developments Ltd of Manea will go to a specially convened planning committee next Wednesday.

Sue Finlayson, team leader in development control, is critical too of the “poor quality” of the illustrative plans for the site at The Shade.

She says officers fear the store would impact upon planned investment in the town centre, i.e. the expansion of Budgens.

Two supermarket chains had shown an interest in acquiring and expanding the store, she says, and development of The Shade would impact on this.

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Ms Finlayson also says even if councillors were minded to consider The Shade the county archaeologist had recommend trial trenching “but the applicant is not willing to do this”.

The plans include a public house/restaurant, petrol filling station and a total of 282 car parking spaces.

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Vehicles would access the site from The Shade with a new roundabout with Kingfisher Drive.

Ms Finlayson says the applicants believe the store would generate local competition, reduce the need for residents to travel to neighbouring towns, claw back expenditure lost to Soham, generate jobs and “create a community feel to the north of Soham”.

She also says the plans have attracted 665 comments in support and 51 letters of objection.

Cambridgeshire County Council opposes the store on the grounds it would have “a negative impact” on the town centre and conflicts with current development plans for Soham.

However the report by Ms Finlayson notes Soham Town Council has no objections to the store and that the ward councillor is generally supportive.

Her report details concerns about the proposed “heavily engineered roundabout” from The Shade which would be the main access to the retail site. There is already a roundabout to the north “and having two roundabouts in such close proximity is not ideal. It would not provide an attractive entrance to Soham”.

Ms Finlayson says despite the developers offering community benefits such as £100,000 for town centre improvements and £150,000 for a hopper bus these would not “fully mitigate” the store’s impact.

She concludes by telling councillors the thrust of both local and national policy is that retail development should be concentrated on the town centre. Alternative sites are available within the town centre “which are suitable, available and viable”.

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