New food store
Chelmsford City Council

Background

SP Broadway was instructed to assist with the final political stage of consultation on an application to redevelop two garden centres on the edge of South Woodham Ferrers, Essex, providing a new Sainsbury’s store and doctor’s surgery.

Challenge

  • The site was a long, thin stretch of land outside the Urban Area, extending into open countryside. Parts of the site were undeveloped, and the site was opposite a Grade II listed cottage.
  • Chelmsford City Council had identified a large area of land north of the town for potential residential development in its Local Plan. Our clients’ site formed part of this land, and there was concern the application would be seen as a ‘Trojan Horse’ for further development outside the Urban Area.

Solution

  • Our initial research established that South Woodham Ferrers councillors had recently undertaken a survey of residents showing widespread enthusiasm for a new supermarket to rival the existing Asda store, promoting choice and competition.
  • We monitored local newspapers and online media to monitor the response to the council’s Local Plan options, and prepared a press release in case the connection was made publicly between our client’s application and the proposed residential development to the north, which could have led to a refusal.
  • We drafted and sent a briefing letter to all Planning Committee members, setting out the benefits of the scheme for South Woodham Ferrers residents, followed by calls to members to gauge their attitude to the scheme and answer any questions.
  • Planning Committee members chose to defer the application for a month, enabling a site visit to consider the scheme’s impact on 1) landscape 2) highways 3) the listed cottage and 4) the town centre. In the week of the site visit we sent a further briefing letter addressing these four key issues.

Result

The application was approved 10 votes to 1 at the second Planning Committee meeting in January 2016.