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Campaign 4 York opposes the Monks Cross community stadium and retail development
8:30am Wednesday 16th May 2012 in News
As councillors prepare to make a decision on a new community stadium and retail development at Monks Cross, the Campaign 4 York – which opposes the scheme – explains why it believes the proposals should be turned down.
Q. Why do you oppose the Monks Cross plans?
A. The proposals are a serious, obvious threat to the short and long-term future of the city centre. There are two simultaneous proposals totalling nearly 500,000sq ft, with thousands of free car-parking spaces, threatening the economic and cultural vitality and viability of the city in the 800th year of its Royal Charter. The city centre would simply not be able to exist and compete on a level playing field. It is crucial to take a longer-term approach to delivering more central options for retail growth, securing the future of the historic core, rather than being lured by the “benefits” of an unviable stadium proposal which is not universally supported.
Drivers Jonas Deloitte (DJD), in their independent review for City of York Council, conclude the proposals fail the sequential test and are likely to have a significant adverse impact on the vitality and viability of the city centre, and are likely to prejudice planned investment in the city centre. They also conclude the scheme could prejudice the council’s emerging planning strategy and is therefore premature. DJD appear to have seen no evidence to demonstrate this could be regarded as “enabling development”. In every key respect, they support our conclusions and concerns. There is no evidence supporting such a large-scale out-of-town proposal. Oakgate have not adequately demonstrated the amount of floorspace proposed is required to fund the stadium. This amount of development would harm the delivery of existing and emerging development plan objectives and policies. Both this and the crippling impact on the city-centre’s trade and turnover will result in inevitable restriction on investment, and significant displacement and disinvestment. The proposal’s scale raises serious sustainability concerns. The site’s accessibility will increase reliance on private car transport and add pressure to the public transport network. Adequate mitigation is not proposed, and even it were, it would be a clear and obvious indicator that the site is not appropriately located and is contrary to the council’s principles of sustainability.
Q. What evidence do you use to support your claims?
A. GVA, who undertook the 2008 Regional Study for York, have given written evidence the city centre would permanently lose 15 to 20 per cent of its income. That evidence is supported by the DJD report and further corroborated by Jones Lang LaSalle’s written evidence to the council.
The applications are contrary to National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF), the Regional Spatial Strategy in the Yorkshire and Humber Plan 2008, and local planning policy. The NPPF encompasses planning for economic prosperity, people and places. This application fails to meet these objectives as a result of the harm on the city centre and neighbourhood community areas, the lack of sustainability and Monks Cross’s poor accessibility. The principles of the NPPF and its detailed considerations are compromised.
Within the 2008 draft of York’s emerging Allocations Draft Planning Document, Monks Cross is not indicated as a future retail site. It also describes how future retail development will be located towards district and local centres, in accordance with national retail policy. The location of future retail provision in York is made clear in the publication draft of York’s emerging Core Strategy, with the strategic objective for retail stating its priority is to “deliver new shopping provision to support the vitality and viability of the city centre and meet local shopping needs”.
These principles are then translated into draft policies, which state sustainable economic growth will be achieved by “supporting the protection and enhancement of the commercial, business, retail, leisure and tourism of York city centre”, and that York’s Local Development Framework “will support the vitality and viability of the city centre, with the central shopping area continuing to be the primary focus for new comparison goods retail development”.
The central shopping area is identified as being the priority location for new retail growth, with draft policy stating out-of-town centres will be considered as “phase two” (post-2020) location for growth, and only then in light of the “impact on existing centres and retail allocations”. York’s finalised Core Strategy specifically states: “The amount of comparison floorspace in out-of-town retail destinations will not be expanded.”
Q. So where do you believe Oakgate are wrong?
A. The developers have underestimated the proportion of the proposed turnover likely to be drawn away from the city centre. Of the assumed total turnover of £154 million, the applicant estimates only 25 per cent – £38.9 million – would be diverted away from the city centre. Putting this into context, they estimate more than £50 million of the proposal’s turnover will be diverted from Monks Cross and Clifton Moor retail parks. This assumption is illogical and fundamentally flawed, with profound consequences for the overall level of impact for the proposals. Indigo, in their assessment of the Monks Cross proposals, recognise the likelihood of a much greater level of overlap between Monks Cross and the city centre. Their assessment assumes 40 per cent of the proposal’s turnover will be diverted from the city centre. Given Oakgate’s proposals comprise relocation of a Marks & Spencer store and more directly-competing department/variety store facilities, GVA consider this level of overlap will be more significant. GVA’s view is that at least 50 per cent of the proposal’s turnover is likely to be diverted from the city centre.
On this basis, they consider about £80 million of trade will be lost directly from the city centre to the Oakgate proposals, ignoring the additional effects of competing developments in neighbouring city centres and at Monks Cross itself. They consider a more realistic assessment, taking into account these other developments, is likely to be in the range of 15-20 per cent – at least £95 million – of total city-centre sales permanently.
Q. Isn’t the possibility of more out-of-town shopping simply a case of extra competition?
A. It isn’t a fair, level playing field in terms of competition, because it’s far easier to park outside a store than to get the bus into town or pay expensive parking charges.
The question should be whether a 33 per cent increase in the amount of out-of-town shopping – meaning that, if these proposals are approved, York will be facing total out-of-town floorspace similar to that of Meadowhall – is a sustainable development?
An extra 500,000sq ft of retail with free parking isn’t fair competition when added to the existing 500,000sq ft of retail at Monks Cross. It’s not competition – it’s annihilation.
Q. Out-of-town shopping centres have free parking; the city-centre has its beautiful surroundings and international reputation. In terms of advantages and benefits, isn’t it just swings and roundabouts?
A. How attractive to residents or visitors would York’s city centre be if it was full of empty shops, bookmakers, charity shops and coffee shops? People visit York as residents, tourists and potential investors for shopping in a well-maintained heritage environment, not the other way around. If there are no shops, it will just be a museum. How sustainable is that?
Q. What would you say to those who claim your opposition is based on vested interests, rather than a desire for what is best for the city?
A. Nobody proposes or objects to anything unless they have an interest. Developers are vested to the tune of tens of millions of pounds. The council has the second-biggest vested financial interest here, and the owners of York City FC have the third. Football fans are vested because they’ve been spun tall tales. Businesses are vested because they are responsible for keeping people in work.
Q. If the Monks Cross plans are rejected, you may face a backlash from certain quarters, such as York City fans who fear for the future of their club, or residents who want to see John Lewis come to York. Are you prepared for this?
A. We are prepared to stand up for the economic, cultural and environmental good and global distinction of York, to welcome John Lewis into the city centre – where they are more than capable of competing on a level playing field – and to work with the valuable communities of supporters of York City Knights and York City FC for a positive outcome. Most of them fully understand and appreciate our concerns.
Q. What – if anything – would make you change your mind about opposition to this scheme?
A. Free parking in the city centre? A change in the worldwide economic situation? The collapse of the internet? The removal of the retail aspect of the requirement to build a stadium on a viable business case.
Q. If the Oakgate plans are approved by City of York Council, what would be your next step?
A. That’s for each business or organisation or individual to consider. For the moment, we are engaging fairly and properly on the issues with the officers and councillors of City of York Council.
Q. And if the Monks Cross scheme does go ahead in spite of your opposition, what should be done to ensure the city centre is not harmed by this development?
A. That’s not our job. That’s the responsibility of Coun James Alexander, the council leader, and his cabinet. The irreversible demise of this great city centre and the probable white elephant, loss-making stadium would be his and their legacy.