An expansion to Cheshire Oaks, which could bring 330 jobs, has been given the green light by the planning committee.
Cheshire West and Chester council’s planning committee unanimously approved plans to allow an expansion to the retail park which will include a new 300 space car park, new retail and restaurant units, a new children’s play area and a new pedestrian bridge to Thornton Road.
Bob May, from Turley who are the agents for the scheme, said that the changes would “ensure the expectations of customers would be exceeded”.
Mr May told the committee that the applicants, McArthur Glen would be investing £23million into the site which is expected to bring 330 jobs, £560,000 extra in business rates and £12.3million to the North West economy.
The proposals include an extra 3,700sq ft of retail and restaurant space which will include a block of seven retail units and a two storey restaurant to the north of the Polo Ralph Lauren store; a block of four retail units with public toilets opposite the M&S outlet store; a block of four retail units between the Gap store and the Phase 1 units; two new food and beverage units, plus an extension to McDonalds.
Mr May also addressed the objection put in by the agents of the Northgate development scheme in Chester who had complained that an extension to Cheshire Oaks would adversely affected the plans for investment in the city.
Mr May said that the expansion “would not harm the vitality” of nearby sites such as Northgate and that they were “delighted” to see the scheme had secured a department store for the site.
Cllr Lynn Clare, who represents the Ellesmere Port town centre ward, praised the plans for the site and said she had only met two people who had criticised the plans.
She said: “In all honesty I cannot find anything worthy of refusing its permission. I have only found two people who do not have anything but praise for the plans.
”The new footbridge will make such a difference and it is something which these residents have asked for. If they are working they have to go over a mile at the moment whereas once that is open it is 150-200 yards. That will cut down on traffic from commuters and encourage people on bicycles.”
All the members of the committee were supportive of the application but some expressed concerns about the levels of traffic currently at the site.
Cllr Brian Jones, who represents Whitby, raised concerns about the weekend “gridlock” and suggested that the bosses of the retail park explore more options, including park and ride and a railway line to the site.
Paul Parry, council officer for highways, said that the application wouldn’t hugely increase the traffic on most days but admitted there was a problem on “event” days.
He said: “We all know Cheshire Oaks has its moments – Christmas, bank holidays. We have all been stuck in it at some point. This application should not increase significantly additional vehicles on non event days and the network will cope.
“One issue there is turnover. Dwell time is so long there. There are loads of people trying to get in and there is not many people leaving.
“That [the new car park] in itself won’t solve the problems. The issues that we have now will still be there. Cheshire Oaks have been working with their partners – CWAC, the police – to try and bring up this traffic management plan and lessons are being learned every time they employ it.”
Mr Parry said that as part of the section 106 agreement the developer has agreed to pay for a permanent traffic management scheme in the park and surrounding areas to try and improve traffic on the busiest days.
The committee voted unanimously to approve the scheme.