Casualty of expansion of store will be quality of life
MORRISONS is trying again to enlarge its Outland Road supermarket after withdrawing an earlier proposal in the face of objections from Plymouth City Council, the Highways Agency and local residents.
It wanted a new access on Outland Road, which raised an outcry, and which was a tacit admission that traffic volume generated by the store was clogging up the area.
The Outland Road access plan has been dropped and now Morrisons wants the Torr Lane entrance and exit moved a little further south and a mini-roundabout added.
The assumption is that this would contain traffic congestion around the store.
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The contention that extra retail space (1,000 square metres) does not equate to more customers is repeated. Evidently an external remake, decked parking, wider aisles, larger vegetable displays and enhanced café facilities are possible without attracting extra footfall or requiring extra parking space.
Rerouting traffic congestion is the best solution Morrisons can offer – more clogged roads and tailbacks and further inconvenience to residents are the likely outcome. Morrisons seems to be hoping the Government's new Transport Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) will allow automatically for the presumption of sustainable development. Traffic pollution can still be a deciding factor, however, and the NPPF also pronounces on a range of planning issues and considerations, from the United Nations' wider definition of sustainable development to environmental aspects and the quality of life for all concerned.
Objections by Plymouth City Council to the previous proposal included sub-standard access, inadequate parking and traffic volumes.
Morrisons claims these have been resolved. Clearly not; nor are the concerns of local residents over the creation of decked parking close to houses and the assumption of unrestricted free parking on the Hartley estate (extra part-time staff could exacerbate parking nearby by employees excluded from the store's car park).
The Transport Department identified the pitfalls first time around and the hope must be that similar logic and thinking apply here. A bigger and better supermarket might be desirable, but the site's physical constraints and limitations of the local road network in a residential area have reached saturation point.
Expansion at any cost socially is not on.
Recent history offers lessons. Granting of planning permission for the store (formerly Safeway) was questionable. Changes have met with further resistance from local residents. A successful business needs to expand, but there must be limits where the constraints of situation and limitations of the local road network no longer allow.
It remains to be seen if Morrisons has the clout to swing it this time, but the quality of life locally will be the casualty if the expansion is waved through. What next – a café or nightclub atop two or more layers of car park decking?