Plans submitted over a year ago for a new retail development adjacent to the existing Handforth Dean retail park, which would create up to 200 jobs, were refused by Cheshire East Council's Strategic Planning Board.
The scheme by Orbit Developments involved replacing the existing buildings with a parade of units along with a standalone drive thru unit. The proposal was for five retail units and two restaurants, cafes or takeaways along with 240 car parking spaces.
Orbit's scheme was refused at a meeting of the Strategic Planning Board on Wednesday 24th February on the grounds that the loss of employment land is considered to significantly outweigh the benefits of the proposal.
The site which lies off Earl Road and Epsom Avenue currently contains a large warehouse and smaller office building, built in the 1970s, and scrubland. It is bounded to the west by the John Lewis distribution centre and to the east is the vacant site which Consolidated Property Group have recently submitted plans for Phase Two and Three of a retail and leisure development comprising of retail units, cafes and restaurants, a gym and a hotel.
Phase One of this development is currently under construction with a Next fashion and homeware store due to open in October 2016.
A spokesman for Cheshire East Council said: "This land has never been designated for retail and therefore development of a retail site here would be contrary to the Macclesfield Borough local plan and create pressure to find alternative recognised employment sites.
"This would also impact on any existing employment uses on the site, which could be displaced, in the event of approval.
"It is important to protect recognised employment land in order to provide development opportunities for substantial commercial buildings, such as warehousing, that cannot be located in town centres or countryside locations.
"Cheshire East Council is actively seeking additional employment land as part of its emerging local plan and the Council wishes to minimise the growing pressure to release green belt land.
"As stated in the reasons for refusal, the merits of the proposal should not be judged by the numbers of jobs it creates and the loss of employment land in this case would demonstrably outweigh the benefits of the proposal."
Speaking about the decision, Mark Royle, Director of Orbit Developments, said "Cheshire East Council has refused the application solely based upon the Council Officers recommendation regarding its 'Employment land allocation' which seeks to retain the land for what might be described as more traditional uses of office, industrial, storage and warehousing. This allocation also applied to the land opposite on the site where 'Next' was approved, and is currently under construction.
"The existing old warehouse on the site already has consent granted by the Council for demolition. The premises employ 7 people and are occupied on a flexible basis anticipating redevelopment. These people could be relocated or be provided with alternative job opportunities by The Emerson Group on adjacent areas of Earl Road, thereby protecting existing employees. In addition, the refused proposed retail scheme would in itself have provided up to 200 new jobs, these being mostly local as well as construction and supply chain employment opportunities.
"Our site has been marketed for offices for in excess of 10 years, following approval for two office buildings, with little interest and no occupiers. Orbit have also speculatively invested in the construction of a new office building adjacent to the site which remains empty since construction 8 years ago. There is an unrealistic prospect that these types of future jobs would be created in buildings which would also be incompatible with the present and future retail surroundings. Policy is guidance and not mandatory, jobs are jobs and delivering real jobs the priority."
"This is a modest retail scheme with limited loss of designated 'employment land' and is located in a new retail environment. Section 106 contributions to training and investment in employment over and above those jobs created by proposed development, together with payments for local highways/footpath/lighting improvements, recreation, open green spaces and community projects in excess of £600,000 were also offered and declined."
"It seems incomprehensible that an Employment Policy designed for the economic benefit and growth in the area should restrict investment and the creation of jobs."
The planning application can be viewed on the Cheshire East Council website by searching for planning reference 15/0400M.
Planning permission has previously been granted for the demolition of the existing buildings on Earl Road and replacement with two office blocks but this did not go ahead as there has been little interest and no occupiers.