Jan 12 2009 by David Norbury, Chester Chronicle
A LARGE extension to a suburban supermarket has permission despite traffic concerns.
The application, made by Sainsbury's at Caldy Valley Road, Great Boughton, is opposed by parish councillors and neighbours.
The effect on the nearby busy roundabout junction with the A41, the scene of numerous crashes, has been raised.
The company has told planning officers at Chester City Council it is proposing to enlarge the sales area from 3,133sqm to 5,400sqm including a new mezzanine floor.
Other changes include a new store entrance, the relocation of the cafe, alterations to the 400 space car park and landscaping.
A contribution of £100,000 will be made under a legal agreement towards the cost of highways and transport measures.
Objecting to the extension to the store, which originally had permission in 1981, Great Boughton Parish Council says it is concerned about extra traffic and its effect on the roundabout at the junction of the A41 and Caldy Valley Road.
Parish councillors believe a predicted rise in traffic “seems unrealistically low” and say they cannot accept there will be no significant increase in traffic at the main roundabout
Councillors feel that more car parking spaces will be needed and have asked for a travel plan.
They suggested the exit from the superstore car park directly onto Caldy Valley Road should become an entrance and all customers should leave via the mini roundabout onto the road.
They also fear changes to the appearance of the store frontage will be unsympathetic to local surroundings.
Neighbours have told the city council they are worried about late night working on the extension and the possible effect of any new signage and lighting.
Two thirds of the floor space will be used for food shopping and one third, in the new mezzanine, for comparison goods, according to a report.
The cafe will move to the mezzanine, which will be reached by moving walkways, a lift and stairs.
The extended store will still be appropriate for its location in the Caldy Valley/Boughton Heath suburb, suggest planning officers.
The increase in size will improve its offer and shopper experience.
For Sainsbury's, consulting engineers have submitted an assessment which says the supermarket is “highly accessible” by public transport, walking and cycling.
Sainsbury's also controls underused parking in front of neighbouring units on Caldy Valley Road, planning officers point out.
The existing exit from the store car park will be removed and all traffic entering and leaving the supermarket will use the mini roundabout on Caldy Valley Road.
A pedestrian crossing to the supermarket will be upgraded.
The County Engineer is said to have had “grave concerns” about the effect of the extension on Sainsbury's roundabout on the A41 which already suffers from “significant congestion and safety issues”, the report reveals.
Any increase in traffic, particularly on the Caldy Valley Road approach, would have a detrimental effect, it is suggested.
The county engineer believes, however, that increased traffic from the extension to the supermarket will be insufficient to justify a complete redesign of the junction, which would run into millions of pounds.
He raised no objections to the extension.
Some measures to reduce the effect on the roundabout are said to be needed and an assessment of these and their implementation will be covered by the £100,000 contribution to be made by Sainsbury's.
The application was recommended for approval to last month's (December) meeting of the city's planning board but councillors decided to defer the matter for more information about access arrangements.
They have now been told that alterations are proposed to the entrance and exit of the car park, which are to be smoothed and widened.
The county engineer believes the changes will deal with any concerns about traffic manoeuvring into and out of the supermarket car park.
“Sainsbury's have answered all questions,” suggested a Vicars Cross Cllr Paul Cheetham Lib Dem.
Cllr Brian Crowe (Con, Mollington) told the board he was not sure he agreed and felt the suggestion by the parish council had not been given due consideration.
“Getting traffic off the road into the car parking is a win-win,” he suggested pointing out the use of the exit as an entrance would also take traffic away from the front of the store.
Accepting “there is going to be rather a melee in front of the store”, Boughton Heath Cllr Jim Latham (Lib Dem) pointed out traffic on the car park itself was not a planning matter.
After principal development officer Mr Paul Parry, for the county engineer, had assured Cllr Crowe there was a preference for one suitable access, the board agreed on a unanimous 13 - 0 vote that the extension to the store should have permission.
At last month's meeting, Cllr Latham remarked that mezzanines had been approved at other stores but said his main concern was the effect on small local shops.
He was also worried about the effect on the city centre, particularly as the Northgate Development “is in paralysis”.
He described the situation at the A41 roundabout as “horrendous”.
Cllr Gwyn Cooper (Lab, City & St Anne's) backed the parish council's “in and out” idea while Labour planning spokesman Cllr Sandra Rudd (College) described car parking at the store as “one of the worst in the city”.
Exiting the car park on to Caldy Valley road “is the problem” she believed.
“It can take ages,” commented Cllr Rudd suggesting there would be chaos at the mini roundabout.
Mr Parry said at the time: “Changing the exit to an entrance would worsen the situation due to right turning traffic.
“It would also be close to the pedestrian crossing.”
Hoole Groves Cllr David Hull (Lib Dem) feared that traffic at the entrance to the store “will get really snarled up” and suggested the application should be refused due to the inadequate entrance and exit.
Councillors agreed, however, to defer a decision for further discussions on the access.