Crucial meeting on store plans

A computer generated image showing how the proposed Morrisons megastore might look (S)
A computer generated image showing how the proposed Morrisons megastore might look (S)

A SUPERMARKET giant’s plans for Ripon will take a step forward as proposals go before a crucial planning committee.

Morrisons’ application to build a new superstore as well as a DIY store, hotel and business units close to its current site on Harrogate Road will be considered by Harrogate Borough Council’s Planning Committee on Tuesday, May 22.

But because of the scheme’s size – covering more than 5,000 sq m – and its out-of-centre location councillors are set to defer their decision until the Secretary of State has decided whether to call the application in for a planning inquiry.

However, council planners have said they consider Morrisons’ proposals for Ripon to be “acceptable” if various conditions are met, including an agreement that could see the supermarket pay for bus service improvements in the city.

The planners’ report to the planning committee said the scheme would benefit Ripon, compete with the new Tesco store in Harrogate, and boost tourism in the area by offering visitors more accommodation and more choice with the new hotel.

Officials have also said the decision should be deferred to make time for a “section 106” agreement – which would see the supermarket group fund improvements around the city.

A bus service, a new roundabout on the A61 Ripon bypass, and resurfacing a bridleway close to the site are among the matters to be settled through the agreement, as well as a pot of up to £150,000 for other improvements in and around Ripon including the bus station.

The bus service would see Morrisons pay £65,000 a year for three years to subsidise the 132 and 134 buses along Quarry Moor Lane, which will divert through the new supermarket site, to encourage shoppers to visit the city centre.

The supermarket also offered to build a new footpath linking the bridleway to Gallows Hill, but as neither North Yorkshire nor Harrogate councils were willing to take over maintenance of a new path that development is unlikely to go ahead, the report said.

The plans also include a new drop-off point for nearby Greystone Primary School and new fencing around the school.

School governors at Greystone are among the people who support the scheme. They contacted the planning department saying the proposals would benefit the whole community, including the school children and their families.

HBC’s Economic Development officers have also supported the scheme saying the business units, DIY store and hotel will be especially good for Ripon’s economy, the planning committee report said, and Littlethorpe Parish Council has not objected.

However, Ripon’s own city council has said it has “grave concerns” for retailers in Ripon and has strongly objected to Morrisons’ plans.

The new store will have a detrimental effect on city centre shops, the city council said, and more thought needs to go into the plans before HBC can agree it.

The committee date comes more than a year after the proposals were first submitted to Harrogate council.

In March the Gazette reported Morrisons’ executives were concerned about “significant delays” to their proposals’ progress with the council, which they said were threatening some of the development’s future.

At the time, the company’s Head of Acquisitions North, James Brook, wrote to the council and said: “We are now having detailed discussions for both the hotel and existing unit for DIY/garden use. The lack of progress with the application could jeopardise the commitment of the parties involved.”

l What do you think of Morrisons’ plans for Ripon? Will they help or hinder the city? Contact the Ripon Gazette at 5 Kirkgate, Ripon, HG4 1PA, email news@ripongazette.co.uk, tweet @RiponRover or find us on Facebook.