LOCAL OBJECTION: Controversy over garden centre plans
The entrance to Whitakers garden centre in Prescot, Image: Google Maps
Plans to move a popular garden centre to land with old coal mines beneath it looks set for approval despite objections from some local residents.
The Whitakers garden centre in Prescot is relocating from its current home at Liverpool Road because of a planned residential development on the site.
The owners of the garden centre, Beesley and Fildes, submitted a planning application earlier this year for a new site, at Manchester Road, after “exhausting” other potential options in and around Prescot town centre.
The proposed site is currently unused land which has been concreted over, but was once home to several mines dating back to the 19th century, with at least three mineshafts detected underneath the surface that had been partially excavated and filled in back in 2002.
The plans include a 2,400 square metre garden centre with plant sale area and cafe with space for up to 105 cars.
The Coal Mining Authority initially objected to the plans because of the existence of coal mining features and hazards on the site.
But after an “intrusive” survey was carried out to determine the risk, have removed their objection as long as conditions around remediation, design and layout are met.
Ahead of a meeting of the council’s planning committee due to take place next Thursday, November 11, several local residents have also voiced concerns around the plans.
Several of the objections were centred on anger at the garden centre moving from its current location on Liverpool Road, although planning officers said this was a “business decision” for the operator and did not fall under the scope of planning.
Another objection referred to the potential impact of the development on already “cramped” parking facilities in the area.
Concerns were also raised about increased traffic the centre could bring, alongside what several objectors said they feared would be an increased risk to children leaving the nearby attraction Space World.
Others objected to the design of the garden centre, with one person describing it as “not visually attractive”.
Concerns were also raised about the impact on the local economy, with some fearing the relocation of the garden centre to a smaller site could impact on jobs, and could also impact on businesses nearby offering similar products – although planning documents state that existing employees are intended to be moved across to the new site.
While planning officers acknowledge the development fell outside of the area’s Local Plan as the relocation involved moving a retail facility outside of the town boundaries, it would bring an otherwise vacant site back into use – the only suitable site the garden centre has found.
The report adds: “To allow the proposal would allow a well-established business to remain in the local area, and retention of the employment it provides.”
In relation to concerns around additional traffic and car parking pressure, the report states that plans to segregate delivery vehicle access and close off the entrance to Manchester Road will mitigate some of the potential issues, with the Highways Team recommending a number of conditions to be placed on the planning permission which would ensure the “development would not result in any significant adverse impacts on highway or pedestrian safety.”
In total over 30 separate conditions were recommended to be included with any planning permission to be granted, with councillors now due to meet next Thursday to discuss whether to approve the proposals.
Words: Lisa Rand, Local Democracy Reporter
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