Asda’s bid to increase floorspace backed by planning officers

Asda store at Stoke Mandeville Hospital
Asda store at Stoke Mandeville Hospital

Planning officers are backing Asda’s proposal to increase the sales area of its Aylesbury store by 25% despite opposition from rival chain Morrisons and Stoke Mandeville Parish Council.

The store’s net sales area is currently limited to 1,000 square metres but Asda bosses have asked the district council to increase this to 1,250sq metres by extending into the storage area of the building.

Opening day of the new Asda store at the entrance to Stoke Mandeville Hospital ENGPNL00120131119094748

Opening day of the new Asda store at the entrance to Stoke Mandeville Hospital ENGPNL00120131119094748

The supermarket giant, which only opened the store at Stoke Mandeville Hospital in November 2013, says the size of the internal sales area is causing congestion in the aisles – leading on one occasion to customers being refused entry because the shop was so busy.

Its case will be heard by the council’s strategic development control committee on Wednesday next week.

Planning officers have recommended councillors approve the application, despite it appearing to go against council policy which states retail in that area of town should not exceed 1,000 sq metres.

Morrisons, which has a store in Station Way, has lodged an objection to the increase, claiming it could be harmful to town centre businesses.

It said evidence of the store being congested in only anecdotal and the store has not been open long enough for trading patterns to settle.

Plans submitted by Asda also show an additional row of shelving which would not reduce congestion, it said, while the additional space cannot be described as insignificant as it has the potential to generate an additional £3.5million.

Stoke Mandeville Parish Council said a bigger sales area could exacerbate parking problems for residents on nearby roads. They suggest congestion could be managed in other ways, for example by using smaller cages.

In her report to council, planning officer Jennie Harris said the authority’s policy now carries limited weight since changes to national planning guidelines, which state that approval should be given unless there is significant adverse impacts.

She said there was no evidence it would have a significant impact on the town centre, traffic and parking or residential amenities.

Asda’s original proposal for a store at Stoke Mandeville Hospital submitted in 2009 included 1,815 sq metres of retail space and was refused by the council, as their planning strategy states there should not be a sales area of more than 1,000 sq metres for that area.