First Major Retail Appeal Post #NPPF in Saffron Walden – Class Based Impact Assessment

Sorry didnt post this last week, have had no chance to read this except over my breakfast coffee this morning.

The site is Land at Thaxted Road, Saffron Walden , Essex CB10 2JR an out of centre location and the appeal is by Sainsburys.  Two schemes appealled one for 6,322 sqm GFA and one for 5,730 sqm GFA.

The site is allocated for employment use and has an employment consent however

The Framework indicates that planning policies should avoid the long term protection of sites allocated for employment use where there is no reasonable prospect of a site being used for that purpose. Taking account of the Council’s position regarding the alternative scheme it seems to me that there has been an acceptance by the Council that a wider range of uses would be acceptable, including retail. In the circumstances any breach of the employment policies are outweighed by the more recent national guidance.

However of course this begs the question which everyone raised about the NPPF, what if as here it is the landowner that is purposefully keeping a site undeveloped?  This certainly would not be a material consideration in a listed building case so why not in other cases?

On the sequential approach.

There is no dispute that there are no suitable, available or viable alternative sites within the town centre or on its edge. The Framework says that when considering edge or out-of-centre proposals preference should be given to accessible sites that are well connected to the town centre.

Another site was not considered a sequential alternative alhough slightly closer to the town centre

The appeal proposals involve improvements to the existing bus service and would provide as good, if
not better, opportunities to exercise modal choice…in the circumstances the Appellants have demonstrated compliance with the requirements of the sequential approach as set out in Paragraph 24 of the Framework.

So the issue then is the impact test.

In view of the lack of expenditure growth the turnover of the new foodstore would be supported by taking expenditure from other stores and shops. The evidence suggests that foodstores mainly compete on a like for-like basis and so expenditure would to a large degree be drawn from similar stores elsewhere. There is little dispute that between about 45% and 48% of the new store’s turnover would derive from the Radwinter Road Tesco.Where an incumbent store is in an out-of-centre location it enjoys no special protection in terms of planning policy. Indeed benefits can arise through increased choice and competition. This is good for the consumer especially in the present economic climate where family budgets are being squeezed…

The inspector concluded that around 15% of the new store’s expensiture would come from clawback against Sainsbury’s extimate of 24%.

The key issue was the impact on the town centre Waitrose

from all of the evidence it seems to me that Sainsbury’s and Waitrose compete in the same market place and that in many respects the two are more closely aligned than Waitrose and Tesco. At Sainsbury’s there is an emphasis on quality produce at a reasonable price. Although many Waitrose customers in the higher socio-economic groups will stay loyal to the brand come what may,it is the harder pressed C1 group who are more sensitive to price and therefore have a greater potential to switch allegiance. For many of these people, who constitute about one third of the Study Area population, the new Sainsbury’s would be an attractive alternative especially at a time when family budgets are under pressure….a cumulative convenience impact of 59%, or 50%  with the smaller proposal (on Waitrose), is not impossible to envisage….[which] is likely to result in serious and significant harm to vitality, viability and retail function even for a town centre as healthy and relatively prosperous as Saffron Walden. Those food shops with small profit margins would undoubtedly suffer and market traders may find it difficult to remain viable.

I think the Inpsector makes an error in the next para

The retail assessments of both the Council and the Appellants were founded on the basis that the new Sainsbury’s store would expect to trade at around its benchmark level. However for the reasons given above clawback and expenditure diversion from the Great Dunmow Tesco would be likely to be much lower than the appellants envisage. In terms of the retail model this means that the expenditure drawn from Waitrose and the town centre would have to be higher.

I don’t know the nuts and bolts of the model but any model that did produce that effect would be a bad model.  You don’t assume a trading level and then apportionate it (as sadly some entropy based models do) rather you assume convenience goods expenditure from a customer in space and then apportionate to the most appropriate and attractive closest store.  Relatively greater draw from Waitrose because the estimated clawback from Great Dunmow was too high in no way implies that the draw will be more in absolute terms.


There was much debate about increased choice and competition. However Saffron Walden is a relatively small market town and it already has two foodstores at which a main food shop can be undertaken. I acknowledge that there is a great deal of support for another alternative to provide quality produce at a price that hard pressed consumers can more easily afford. However this has to be balanced against the adverse effects on the choice and quality of the convenience offer in the town centre….the appeal proposals would not result in a sustainable form of development resulting in sustainable economic growth. The impact on the convenience turnover of the town centre and the probable loss of an investment opportunity are matters of overriding importance. In the face of such significant adverse impacts Paragraph 27 of the Framework says that such proposals should be refused.

Note the inspector got the witnesses lists the wrong way round – woops.