Morrisons retail park could ‘kill off town centre’, says Stamford Chamber of Trade and Commerce president

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Business leaders have hit out at councillors for giving the go-ahead to a shopping complex they say deal a “terminal blow” to town centre trade.

WM Morrison’s application to build a six-unit non-food retail park next to the its supermarket in Uffinton Road, Stamford, was approved by South Kesteven District Council at a meeting last week.

Stamford Chamber of Trade and Commerce president Tim Lee and member Egerton Gilman both spoke at the meeting and questioned the weight given by planning officers to a study on the impact of the retail park. The study suggested the park would take away 9.1 per cent of town centre trade by 2017, but said it was “unlikely to have a significant adverse impact on the vitality and viability of Stamford town centre”.

Despite the chamber’s opposition the retail park application was approved with 11 councillors voting for and four against.

Mr Lee said: “We pointed out that there are currently 13 empty shop fronts in Stamford, and nine charity shops – not a sign of booming affluence.

“A reduction of nine per cent in turnover would, for many of our traders, be a terminal blow, resulting in more empty windows and job losses.”

Mr Lee said the figures used in the study would be devastating to large companies.

He added: “We pointed out that if Marks & Spencer were to announce a nine per cent fall in sales, their share price would halve overnight and the chief executive would get the boot.

“If the same thing happened to, say, Oxford Street, it would be regarded as a national disaster and the Government would be pressed to introduce an emergency growth plan.”

The district council’s head of development and growth Mark Williets said the 9.1 per cent figure was a worst-case scenario.

He added: “The council carefully considered the information provided and came to a view that while there would be an impact on the local economy, it would not be so significant to harm the continued vitality and viability of Stamford town centre.

“The town centre will remain an important, attractive shopping destination.

“There is also the possibility that the new park will retain retail spend within the district and bring in spend from elsewhere.”

Morrisons property asset manager Alistair Smith said it was pleased by the council’s decision.

He said: “We’ve been working hard with the council for over a year now to deliver a planning consent for this important non-food retail park for Stamford and we are delighted with the recent outcome.

“We will be providing further details on delivery programme for the park in due course.”

The firm recently announced it had invested £1.7m refurbishing its Uffington Road, store, creating 14 jobs.