Logistics and industrial developer Newlands Developments and Basingstoke Council are going head-to-head at an appeal hearing into plans to build warehouses on the approach to Basingstoke from Junction 7 of the M3 motorway.
The developer appealed against the council’s decision in May this year after the council refused the scheme twice in 12 months (as reported in Logistics Manager despite planning officers’ recommendation for approval.
The planning appeal hearing, led by planning inspectorate Stephen Wilkinson, started this week.
The controversial scheme originally secured planning approval with Amazon as an occupier for a 2 million ft2 plus warehouse as well as three further warehouses units, but the council revoked the permission in November last year following a legal challenge by Dummer Parish Council. It was done on the grounds that it would destroy local biodiversity, and that there was “no overriding public need”.
In addition to the legal threat from the parish council there has been a well-supported campaign to save 80 oaks within the parish supported by Sarah, The Duchess of York and 95,000 other signatories.
Following a scaling down of the scheme and promises to protect the oak trees the council’s Development Control Committee over-rode planning officers’ recommendations citing ‘the detrimental impact of the proposed development on the character and visual amenity of the landscape’.
The revised scheme totalled 1.25 million ft2 and has lined up discount retailer Lidl as the new key occupier in a 630,000ft2 warehouse rather than Amazon.
The developer has argued that Lidl has found no other suitable sites for a critical distribution warehouse in the region and that this site is the best available however, planner on behalf of the council say there is no evidence that Lidl has even bothered to look at other sites. The council is arguing that there is no evidence that Lidl has researched other sites or indeed that they are looking at other sites and has stated that: “the economic need for development does not override the landscape sensitivity and benefits”.
The hearing was told that a requirement for such a centre on the M3 corridor was identified in 2014 and since then agents have been trying to find a plot.
The case continues.