Concerns raised as M&S foodhall gets the go ahead for Leamington Shopping Park

The developer behind the plans for a new M&S foodhall at Leamington Shopping Park has won its appeal – to the disappointment of groups trying to promote shopping in town centres in the area

In 2017 Standard Life Investments UK Real Estate Fund submitted plans for an M&S Foodhall with a café and two smaller non-food shops for the vacant site between Debenhams and New Look at the Leamington Shopping Park.

Leamington Shopping Park.

Leamington Shopping Park.

Warwick District Council’s planning committee refused the plans in December 2017 because of the impact it would have on Leamington and Warwick town centres.

In July 2018 the developer appealed the council’s decision and on March 22 the appeal was allowed and the developer was granted planning permission.

In the decision Inspector David Wildsmith said: “I have concluded the proposed development would not have any significant adverse impact on existing, committed and planned public or private investment in other nearby centres, or on the vitality or viability of Leamington, Warwick or Kenilworth town centres.”

But Stephanie Kerr, executive Director at BID Leamington, said a new M&S on the edge of town- with Leamington already having two in the town centre - is disappointing news.

She added: “Whilst we know customers enjoy M&S food stores, we urged the inspector to consider the impact of this on the town centre, particularly in regards to the two new retail units, given we don’t know what they will be.

“All over the UK, town centres are struggling to defend against the pressure of out-of-town retail offer.

“It is disappointing that while the government is investing millions into high streets via the High Street Fund, the planning inspectorate is overturning local policy which supports a ‘town centre first’ approach.

“We were also disappointed that the county council withdrew their highways objection as we felt this concern was legitimate.

“Looking forward, local businesses in the town centre alongside the BID team will continue to work incredibly hard to ensure the town centre remains the focus for both retailing and leisure activities and investment.

“We have an exciting range of events coming up this summer and urge local customers who we know love the town centre, to continue to ‘#LoveLeam’ and support our fabulous town centre businesses.”

The team behind #Buyin2Warwick, which aims to encourage people to shop in Warwick, were also disappointed with the decision.

Richard Edgington said: “We are very disappointed with the decision to overturn the decision made by Warwick District Council. At the time the decision was made it was felt that the growth of the shopping park will be detrimental to the town centres.

“The potential to lose Marks and Spencer and have two additional retail units, we fear will harm the vitality of the town centre.

“Whilst the outcome cannot be changed we will continue to promote Warwick town centre and the fantastic independents within it.”