Business leaders fear the proposed 10,761sq.m Blue Diamond garden centre at Scotch Corner would be a hammer blow to the local economies of Richmond, Catterick Garrison, Darlington and Northallerton
Such is the scale of the proposal, which features some 624 parking spaces, a farmers' market-style food hall, indoor play area, convenience goods and “a huge variety of lifestyle products”, that even if Richmondshire councillors approve it on Tuesday, the decision will need to be approved by the government.
Located on a wider 100-acre site, also owned by Scotch Corner Richmond LLP, the developer has revealed ambitions for further leisure and sporting facilities, a hotel, drive-thru food offer, petrol station and employment units.
The plan to further expand the out of town retail centre across arable farmland beside the A1(M) and A66 comes ahead of designer outlet opening in spring 2023.
Objectors have claimed that unlike the designer outlet, the garden centre would sell products available in nearby town centres.
In response, a study by the developers found annual trade lost to the garden centre from Darlington and Richmond would be about £200,000, £300,000 from Catterick Garrison and £100,000 from Northallerton.
However, in a press release, a spokesman for the developers said: “The store will not only surprise and delight first-time visitors, but it will also serve as a regular pit-stop for the local community.”
The developer has also stated the garden centre would create up to 180 new jobs, 80 of which would be full-time.
Nevertheless, some traders and residents remain convinced the garden centre would harm local traders and tourism.
They have highlighted how after approving the designer outlet five years ago the council launched a policy in north Richmondshire to “resist development pressures and support the regeneration of neighbouring Tees Valley settlements. particularly Darlington”.
One objector, Marcia McLuckie, of Richmond-based Yorkshire Country Holidays, wrote: “If Richmond is slowly killed off by the growth of out-of-town retail, there will be no town centre left for those who live here and wish to shop here or for visitors who come and enjoy the experience of our local independents.”
Planning consultancy DEB Town Planning added: “This retail development of 10,503sq m will have a catastrophic impact upon the viability of existing business in the assessed catchment area, resulting in widespread job losses.”
The objectors have also questioned why the garden centre needs 624 car parking spaces and said suggests alternative uses are anticipated for the site.
However, planning officers have dismissed the concerns for local trade as baseless and said while the council’s policies do forbid further expansion onto undeveloped land in the area, that impact would be trumped by the economic and job benefits.
Officers concluded: “The benefits to be derived from the scheme are significant and fundamentally outweigh the limited policy conflicts highlighted in this report to the extent that planning permission should be granted.”