Green campaigners raise concerns over retail scheme

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A LEADING environmental campaign group has claimed that long-running consultations on a planning blueprint for York could be “thrown overboard” amid controversial plans for a retail development.

The York Environment Forum has lodged a formal objection to the expansion of the Monks Cross retail park on the outskirts of the city after claiming the plans have “no public mandate”.

The forum has warned that approving the expansion would imply “a radical change of policy” by York Council and mean a re-think of a long-term planning vision, called the Local Development Framework (LDF).

The forum’s chairwoman, Kate Lock, has stated that the LDF’s main elements would then have to be resubmitted for more public consultation and potentially a public inquiry.

She claimed the expansion would “fly in the face” of council policies to tackle air pollution and promote the environment, and added: “The proposed Monks Cross expansion raises serious concerns about traffic congestion and air quality, which are already really serious issues here in York.”

The scheme would attract showpiece retailers including Marks & Spencer and John Lewis as well as build a long-awaited sports stadium. The plans have sparked a wave of opposition amid fears over the impact on city centre retail.

The firm behind the proposals, Wetherby-based Oakgate (Monks Cross) Ltd, submitted a planning application in September, which is due to be considered by York Council’s planning committee in March.

Managing director Richard France maintained the plans would not undermine the LDF as specialist studies had been carried out to ensure that they adhered to the Government’s policies.

He also stressed the retail expansion was vital to provide the funding for the community stadium to be built.

The council’s assistant director city strategy, Mike Slater, said the authority follows the “correct processes and procedures” for assessing planning applications.

He added: “In line with these, we will continue to operate transparently and ensure that the impact and benefits of these applications are assessed by the planning committee. This includes any impact they may have on the LDF.”