Meeting today: Chapelfield shopping centre owners raise fears over plans for new Asda superstore in Norwich

The owners of Norwich's Chapelfield shopping centre have raised concerns about the size of a proposed new Asda superstore in the city, ahead of a crucial planning meeting.

Asda is seeking permission for a superstore at the old Bally Shoe Factory site in Hall Road, with a net floorspace of 3,406 square metres, with Norwich City councillors due to decide whether to rubber-stamp the scheme today (September 20).

The superstore would form part of a new district centre, which would also include a pub, a community centre, a gym, a 334-space car park, four industrial units and four units which could be used for retail, takeaways or cafes.

But officers at Norwich City Council concede that the superstore proposed at the old Bally Shoe Factory site in Hall Road is 'disproportionately large', while representatives for Chapelfield Shopping Centre have also raised concerns the development could threaten the vitality of the city centre.

Matthew Pochin-Hawkes. from Nathaniel Lichfield & Partners, has written a four-page letter to the city council on behalf of Chapelfield's owners Capital Shopping Centres to highlight their worries.

He said the proposed Asda foodstore was 'significantly larger' than the 1,300 square metre threshold allocated under the city council's own policies.

Although he accepted that previously awarded planning permission, which has since expired, had set a precedent for the size of the store, he has called on the city council's planning committee to impose conditions to control the scale and mix of retail floorspace.

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He said: 'The approved floorspace should be controlled to ensure the development services its local catchment area and does not undermine the vitality and viability of other centres and Norwich city centre.

'To enforce this, we consider that it will be necessary to impose conditions to restrict the floorspace and size of units proposed.'

He said Capital Shopping Centres were keen to see a limit on the maximum floor space of the superstore and a limit on the size of the four proposed retail units, along with a restriction to stop those units being merged.

In the report which will come before councillors, officers at City Hall say the level of floorspace in the superstore would be 'disproportionately large', but that the councillors had to balance their decision with the other economic and community benefits the development would bring.

Asda has said up to 300 jobs would be provided within the superstore and a further 125 over the rest of the development and City Hall officers say: 'A significant amount of weight can be given to this in balancing the merits and dis-merits of the application.'

They are recommending that city councillors approve the plans when they meet today (September 20), but with a string of conditions.

Those conditions include a cap on the floorspace, that the retail units cannot be combined and that the developer hands over just over �915,000 to pay for transport improvements.

The scheme has been backed by a number of families who live in nearby Tuckswood and Lakenham, who are looking forward to the jobs it would create and having a superstore on their doorsteps.

Asda, which held public exhibitions on the plans last December, has said the proposals include much more than just providing a superstore and would regenerate a 'significant location' in the city.

Philip Bartram, from ASDA, said: 'Harford Place has long been ripe for redevelopment, and we are in a position to finally lead the scheme towards completion.

'The history of the site is long and complex, and many local residents have voiced their frustration to us that it continues to sit empty and so far from fulfilling its potential.

'We believe very strongly in the long term benefits of this proposal and aim to turn this long overdue project into reality.

'We welcome the fact that Norwich City council officers have recommended to councillors that our application be approved, but we are disappointed that the significant potential benefits of the proposal have not been more clearly recognised in the council's planning report.

'This scheme represents a major long-term investment into Norwich by Asda, on a site that has remained dormant and neglected for many years, with no prospect of any other major development taking place there.'

As reported in the Norwich Evening News, the development plans for the area were put on hold for several years after the recession put an original �122m plan for the Harford Place site on hold.

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