CHESHIRE West and Chester councillors are to take a fresh look at plans for the vast new Marks & Spencer flagship store proposed at Cheshire Oaks.
The application for the £60m "Marble Arch of the North" destination shopping experience had unanimous approval from councillors in Ellesmere Port and Neston but has been called in by communities and local government secretary Hazel Blears who will reach a decision following a six day public inquiry in June.Š
The huge 195,000 sq ft store, which would be the second largest Marks & Spencers in the country if approved, would offer both food and non food floorspace, a cafe, deli bar and restaurant.
The new council's powerful strategic planning board is due to hear at a County Hall meeting on Thursday, April 30 that it is not being asked to decide the application but to confirm what its approach would be.
This will then be the basis for the council's case at the inquiry.Š
Councillors are being recommended they are "minded" to give the green light to the development which was opposed by the former Chester City and Cheshire County Councils and by commercial interests including Chester's credit crunched half billion pound Northgate Development, the owners of the Grosveno r shopping precinct and the Grosvenor Hotel and Spa.
A hugely detailed 524 page report, with which councillors will have to grapple, says that in the light of the objections from the previous councils "it is considered important that Cheshire West and Chester Council gives fresh consideration to the application."Š
Planning officers point out the county and city councils had raised concerns about "potential conflict" with the guidance on retail and town centre development but add:"The position is different for the new Cheshire West and Chester Borough Council.Š
"The application benefits the new borough in that it provides for regeneration in an area suffering from multiple deprivation and will assist in diversifying the local economy which is overly dependent on a small number of large employers such as Vauxhall."Š
They believe the flagship store would help to diversify the town's economy and would raise the image of the area "by attracting a nationally significant iconic development at a very significant time when there is clearly a struggling global economic landscape."Š
Locally, both Little Stanney Residents Association and Little Stanney and District Parish Council have raised traffic fears.
The store is planned opposite the Coliseum park which includes outlets such as Boots, Mamas and Papas, Argos and Borders as well as a nightclub, bowling alley and a large multiscreen cinema.
The site is close to the Blue Planet aquarium and to Pors che, Audi and Alfa Romeo dealerships.
The store would have two floors including 24,000 sq ft of food shopping, replacing the existing Simply Food store on the Coliseum which is only a third of the size.
Almost 950 car parking spaces would be provided for customers and staff of which 850 would be available for customers.
The store is expected to see almost £100m going through the tills each year.
The company has also emphasised the potential regeneration and employment benefits with the store providing the equivalent of 400 permanent full time jobs with 150 similar jobs at Christmas.
It would represent the largest single investment by Marks & Spencer for 15 years.
Chester's city planners voted to oppose the huge store after hearing that on Marks & Spencer's own figures, it would drain away £6m worth of shopping a year from the city centre.
Marks & Spencer submitted a letter to Chester City Council confirming its commitment to its stores in the city and also to Flintshire County Council about the proposed Marks & Spencer store at the Broughton Retail Park.
The meeting takes place at County Hall at 4pm.