Food Store on Edge of Market Town Receives Judicial Blessing

Edge of town shopping centres are often intensely controversial because of the serious impact they can have on existing high street trade. The Court of Appeal examined that issue in upholding a planning permission granted for a food store 500 metres from the heart of a market town.

Outline consent for the store was granted by the local authority on the basis that retail expenditure was leaking from the town to other retail stores and commercial centres that were further afield. The store was viewed as a means of clawing back that trade and of providing local employment opportunities. Other advantages were that the site would be accessible and well connected to the town centre, and that reduced vehicle movements would lower carbon emissions.

The permission was challenged by a rival food retailer whose existing, smaller, store was about 120 metres from the town centre. That store was projected to lose about one third of its trade if the development went ahead. It was argued that the council had misapplied the planning principle that the preference given to rival retail developments generally depends on their relative proximity to the commercial centre. Those arguments were, however, rejected by the High Court.

In dismissing the retailer’s appeal against that decision, the Court found that the council had rightly taken the view that there was a pressing need for the new store, which would bring real economic benefits to the town. Despite the sizeable impact that it would have on the existing store’s turnover, there was no other preferable site available in town centre or edge of centre locations.