Co-op bid to build convenience store on site of South Kirkby Medical Centre to be heard next week

The Co-op's second bid to build a convenience store on the site of a disused former GP surgery will be publicly scrutinised next week.

By David Spereall
Friday, 9th October 2020, 4:45 pm

The supermarket chain has been trying to get planning permission to take the place of South Kirkby Medical Centre since early 2018, in a long-running and at times bitter saga.

The empty building, which would be demolished under the Co-op's plans, has recently been subject to vandalism and attempted arson attacks.

But long-standing concerns over road safety and the proposed store's location on Barnsley Road still remain.

An artist's impression of how the proposed store would look.

Wakefield Council's planning committee asked the Co-op to consider moving the proposed entrance to the store when the first application was heard two years ago, because the original plans were thought to be dangerous for road users.

That led to the Co-op appealing to the government's Planning Inspectorate. It ruled against the development but said the road safety concerns were not valid.

The supermarket has since returned with an amended application and Wakefield Council officers have recommended it be approved ahead of a planning meeting next Thursday.

But South Kirkby councillor Michelle Collins said she and other local residents remain firmly opposed to the plan and accused Co-op of conducting a "whitewash" consultation.

The disused medical centre has now become a magnet for anti-social behaviour.

Coun Collins said: "The building has been nothing but a blight on South Kirkby and it has attracted anti-social behaviour.

"But if the Co-op cared about the community they’d have done something about that instead of just pressing on with this regardless.

“We don’t need another Co-op in the community. The road is a nightmare and we have plenty of places to shop already.

"Everything I've said previously about this still stands.

Councillor Michelle Collins said she remained opposed to the scheme.

“It’s a little bit sad that the Co-op focused on simply changing the application to fit the feedback they got from the Planning Inspector, rather than engaging a meaningful consultation with the community."

In response, a spokesperson for the Co-op said: "As a society, we are committed to working closely with our customers and members in our communities.

"Every decision related to new sites is always taken with the best interests of the local community in mind, but we are also always happy to listen to any concerns raised about plans from local residents, councillors or businesses like we have done in relation to plans for the site in South Kirkby, including holding a public consultation event last year.

"Following feedback from residents, we made a range of changes and submitted a revised application to the local authority, in partnership with the developer, to turn the former medical centre in Barnsley Road into a brand new convenience store – a move which will result in major investment in the area and the creation of dozens of new jobs.

"The changes include moving the store and service yard to the opposite side of the site and also measures being put in place to reduce noise associated with servicing and deliveries.

"We want to reassure customers, members and local residents that we have been liaising with planning experts and officers from the local authority at every stage of developing this project and have worked together to provide a proposal that will bring significant benefits to the local community.”

Timeline of Co-op saga

July 2018 - Plans to build a convenience store on the site of the medical centre are attacked by local councillor Steve Tulley as "The worst I've seen in 40 years".

Members of the planning committee neither approve or reject the application and instead ask the Co-op to consider moving the proposed entrance to the site to allay concerns over road safety.

The Co-op says it doesn't want to be "unco-operative" over the issue but that other alternatives had been explored and ruled out.

November 2018 - Agents for the Co-op claim the council has behaved "unreasonably" and appeals to the government's Planning Inspector for a final decision on the matter. They claim, inaccurately, that the local authority had rejected the application.

December 2018 - The Planning Inspector rules against the development and the Co-op's bid for the council to cover its legal costs.

However, concerns around road safety are dismissed, with the impact on neighbours being the primary reason the development is rejected.

August 2019 - The Co-op lodges a second application, changing the layout of the store to meet the feedback given by the Planning Inspector.