An application has been made for a convenience store and four commercial units on Dolbeare Business Park in Ashburton.
Ashburton Chamber of Trade, which represents over 60 local businesses, has consulted with its members and has released the following statement: ‘As an organisation we strongly object to the above planning application. Dartmoor National Park’s Local Plan 5.1.4 states that ‘new residential and business development in settlements should improve footfall on high streets and the viability of local services.’ We strongly believe that this application will do neither of those things.
‘The application seems to focus on the proposed convenience store but we are equally as concerned about the other four Class E units. Under the new classification these could be a number of things including retail units and cafés which would further draw business away from the town centre.
‘An out-of-town development will have devastating effects on the town centre, drawing business and footfall directly away from the high street – to the sum of approximately £340,000 per annum according to the applicant’s retail statement. The town centre represents a very fragile balance and one not to be taken for granted.
‘We are incredibly lucky in Ashburton to have such a diverse range of independent businesses including a greengrocer’s, butcher’s, baker’s, fishmonger’s and delicatessen who work incredibly hard but we must support them and look after them if we want Ashburton’s high street to survive. Each business brings their own customers to town and this directly benefits the other businesses.
‘Those popping in to town for a pint of milk may also remember they need a light bulb from the hardware store or be tempted by something in a passing window display. The town centre will not be able to withstand this huge loss of business and we strongly believe it will lead to many independent businesses being forced to close.
‘Within the applicant’s Retail Statement, they have included a ‘Town Centre Health Check’ which draws the conclusion that Ashburton has a healthy town centre and therefore won’t be affected by the loss of business and footfall that an out-of-town development will cause. We strongly disagree with this and would argue that it is because we have not allowed any out-of-town shopping facilities that we are lucky enough to have such a vibrant town centre.
‘The applicant has also largely based the health of Ashburton town centre on the percentage of empty units, which was at 6.02% compared to an average of 14.18% nationally, when assessed in September. This, however, does not include a number of businesses currently up for sale and cannot possibly provide an accurate measure of a town centre’s resistance to change.
‘The Retail Statement also does not give any mention of Balland Stores – the closest convenience store to the proposed development site, located on Balland Park, just 0.3 miles from the site and most likely to be severely impacted.
The applicant has also stated that Ashburton has a higher-than-average percentage of convenience stores in the town centre, 13.25%, compared to 9.17% nationally. So, I would suggest that this does not indicate the need for another one, especially when you take into account Balland Stores
‘Aside from the impact on the town centre we are concerned by the lack of parking facilities. There seems to be very little provision for staff parking considering there are five proposed units. Furthermore, given that Dartmoor National Park have declared a Climate Emergency, there is a woeful lack of bicycle rack facilities and Electric Vehicle Charging Points. The design of the buildings is poor quality with no thought given to renewable energy or sustainable materials.
‘We are also disappointed to see the proposed loss of a large and historic tree by the entrance. The roads and junction by the proposed development are already very busy, especially in the mornings and afternoons and are used by numerous buses carrying pupils to or from South Dartmoor Community College. There are already issues with vehicles regularly driving the wrong way on the A38 slip road right next to the development and this development is surely only going to exacerbate these problems.
‘Dartmoor National Park’s Local Plan 5.2 states ‘proposals outside town centres which are found to have a significant adverse impact on a town centre will not be granted’ – we believe it is clear that this application will have a significant adverse impact and therefore strongly object
to the proposal.’