Concerns new office development will become 'a big empty white elephant'

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Revised plans for a new office development on the Royal London campus have been given the go ahead leaving one Wilmslow councillor with concerns that it will become 'a big empty white elephant'.

Members of the Strategic Planning Board approved the outline plans on Wednesday, 23rd October, for up to 17,000sqm of new office development and up to 1,100 car parking spaces along with the creation of new pedestrian and cycle routes.

The approved application is a renewal of the previously approved outline office application (reference 16/2314M), but with four smaller buildings to provide more flexible accommodation, designed to appeal to companies of varying sizes.

In 2016 the company was granted planning permission for a new office development at their Alderley Road campus, which is included in the Cheshire East Local Plan (along with land to the west of Alderley Road) as a strategic site for employment use, a hotel and residential development.

However, in October 2017 - having considered a range of options for the future - the company announced it would be moving out of Wilmslow to Alderley Park.

The group is on track to complete its move during 2020, when around 1,200 members of staff will relocate from Royal London House and other buildings on the Wilmslow campus.

Councillor David Jefferay, ward councillor for Wilmslow East and a member of the Strategic Planning Board (SPB) said "Although the application was only for access to the site and not the detail of the office buildings, I am disappointed that the SPB members did not support my view that the situation on the Royal London site had changed since it was allocated as a strategic site in the Local Plan.

"I asked the committee members to defer approval pending a review of the need for so much new office space when we already have vacant office space in the centre of Wilmslow. I have real concerns that the 17000 sqm will either divert workers, and therefore retail spending, from the town centre or the new offices will become a big empty white elephant.

"Hopefully I am wrong and Wilmslow will exhibit the growth needed to not only fill the soon to be vacant Royal London offices but also to fill the new space that they told us they needed in order to stay in the town (just before announcing their intention to relocate)."

In March 2018, Royal London were also granted planning permission for up to 60 homes on land opposite the Royal London Campus, to the west of Alderley Road, and 120 homes, along with the access roads and landscaping, on the northern part of Royal London campus.

Royal London says no construction work is expected to commence until after they have moved to Alderley Park.

Tags:
Planning Applications, Royal London
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Comments

Here's what readers have had to say so far. Why not add your thoughts below.

Jon Newell
Thursday 24th October 2019 at 2:08 pm
Councillor Jefferay expresses concern that this may become a white elephant.

In assessing this view we need to take into account the recent announcement that planning permission is being sought for the development of Wilmslow Business Park. The first phase of this is separated from the Royal London site only by the railway line. The proposal is for 17,000 sq meres - a similar size to the Royal London new development.

The soon to be vacated Royal London buildings house c1,100 staff so I am guessing they extend to c10,000 Sq m.

We are therefore faced with a site providing top grade (and presumably top price) office accommodation amounting to c45,000 sq m on what will be a continuous site between Alderley Road and the railway line.

Currently, this is being built on a completely speculative basis. There are no tenants signed up.

Councillor Jefferay says he hopes he is wrong and that the development brings wealth to Wilmslow.

To me, it looks like a huge risk on the part of the developers. Under current economic uncertainty, it could be years before this development is even close to full occupancy.
Roger Bagguley
Thursday 24th October 2019 at 5:33 pm
Thanks are due to Councillor David Jefferay who sought to have this outline application deferred so that proper process can be followed. Thanks too to Councillors Mark Goldsmith and Jon Newall, all three RoW Indepenents, for attempting to have everything in place before giving approval. Non are refusing as this land, along with the Wilmslow Business Park, was surrendered by the previous administration to the Local Plan for business purposes. Thus, it will happen. Sad really when there is no audit completed that indicates the need for more and more offices. What we do need
for Wilmslow is to solve the on street parking issues and to have sight of plans to provide for secondary education and to solve the increasing problem of access to Wilmslow High School.

The solution to these problems lies within reallocation of some of this land at Royal London and some of the land allocated to the Business Park but zombie planning seems not to allow for any flexibility to accommodate changing needs.

Is their any chance that a review of the Local Plan, scheduled for 2020, a plan based upon inflated population growth figures might bring about a rethink?Hopefully so. These lands are lost from the Green Belt but they do not have to be developed. There is in place a Wilmslow Neighbourhood Plan that aspires to our town being a pleasant place to live, work and enjoy leisure time. Nowhere does it seek office complexes and business parks of the order being planned for at Royal London and at the Busines Park.
Chris Neill
Friday 25th October 2019 at 6:49 am
Why not put them all in that other White Elephant planning disaster known as "Chapelwood", it's empty and looks like offices?
Christine McClory
Wednesday 30th October 2019 at 3:27 pm
Or..... convert Chapelwood to offices?
One has to laugh or cry excessively !
Well done RoW s for trying to be rational.
It’s good to know we have a voice, at least.
Sheila Hallas
Wednesday 30th October 2019 at 5:27 pm
Royal London’s offices were purpose built for them. It is difficult to understand their need to uproot to yet another purpose built office.
I seem to remember they metaphorically put a gun to the Cheshire East Council with new plans, including a hotel near the Bypass roundabout, and dense housing on the other side of the A34.
Now plans for 17,000 square feet of offices plus 1,100 car parking spaces there as well.
I’m glad David Jeffery spoke against this.
The Hotel site is covered in Himalayan Balsam. The road adjacent is clogged with cars, and often flooded. Add another 1,100 cars then.

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