SUPERMARKET giant Morrisons is to submit a plan for a 40,000sq ft store on playing fields off Nottingham Road in Ripley.
The move follows months of debate, protests and petitions concerning the controversial bid to bring a big-name shopping outlet to the outskirts of the town.
Morrisons’ proposal to build a new store on around seven acres of Amber Valley Borough Council-owned land on part of the playing fields was approved at the latest full council meeting.
A packed public gallery watold to leave the Ripley Town Hall chambers, so the item could be discussed in private – due to the commercial sensitivity of the bid, the authority said.
Leader of the council Cllr Stuart Bradford spoke after the meeting on the plans. He said: “We appreciate the strength of feeling of some about the plans for the superstore, but we emphasise that the plans are still subject to the planning process, which will rigorously test the issues raised by concerned local residents such as the impact on the town centre.
“However, the funding received, as part of the agreement with the developers will allow the council to realise other ambitions as part of its overall strategic priorities for the future.
“We have to take a long-term view, and I firmly believe that the creation of jobs and the improved road links to Ripley will boost the town.”
Morrisons has signed an agreement with the council to purchase the land, but the council would not reveal the cost.
The superstore would offer about 40,000sq ft of mainly food sales, as well as associated car parking and a petrol filling station.
Morrisons says it would typically employ 350 people, 150 of which would be part-time staff.
The planning application for the design of the superstore will be submitted by Brailsford developer Clowes Westerman.
The company owns around 11 acres of nearby land on Nottingham Road, on which it now plans to build 130 houses as part of what it has called the ‘Gateway scheme’, which also includes industry.
The company secured planning permission for industrial development on that site in 2007. Amber Valley had reservations initially over the industry and worked with the developer to secure a mix of development it was happier with, which included the new homes. An application for the plans had yet to be submitted..
Plans to revamp the remaining part of the Nottingham Road Recreation Ground, known locally as Greenwich playing fields, to a Green Flag standard are still set to go ahead, also increasing the size of it to ten acres and retaining the skate park on the site by using some of the neighbouring Clowes Westerman land.
The council says it is in talks with local sports clubs, as well as St John’s Primary and Mill Hill schools in Ripley to discuss future use of the site.
More detailed plans for the recreation ground are due to be released in March.
The developers will also submit an application for a new roundabout and access road off the existing roundabout at the north end of Coach Road.
The council has also reserved the right to move the access to the route of the proposed A610 Codnor Ripley link road.
Early reaction to the store plan – within half a mile of a Sainsbury’s superstore – has been frosty in some quarters.
Leader of Ripley Town Council Cllr Steve Freeborn has claimed it will ‘spell disaster’ for Ripley and will ‘kill’ off Ripley town centre.
“The real issue is the impact that a new superstore would have on the town centre.
“It might be subject to what they think is a rigorous test, but the reports they’ve considered so far have all been in secret,” he said.
The decision to build a supermarket on Nottingham Road goes against the borough council’s Local Plan, which on its website designates the area as playing fields, park and informal open space.
During a consultation event held by developers Clowes Westerman, 140 people gave their views on the supermarket proposals, with 25 in favour of the plan and 115 opposed.
Speaking at Wednesday night’s full council meeting, protestor Sylvia Mason, who has lead a Facebook campaign against the development, said to councillors: “You say you have listened to us – then how come the consultation for the Greenwich proposal numbered 25 for and 115 against?”
Owner of Clarkes department store, on Grosvenor Road in Ripley, David Clarke has gathered more than 2,000 names on two separate petitions against the scheme. This week he said: “It does not matter which supermarket it is, there’s been a whole body of reaction against it, but it looks as if they have gone ahead with it anyway.”
Council chief executive Peter Carney said there was public support for elements of the scheme and Cllr Bradford added that people living nearby were relieved that the original plan for factories was not going ahead.
If the store gets planning permission, he said trees and a hedge row would be retained to provide a natural screen.
He said he did not agree a new superstore would necessarily cripple trade in the town centre, nor that the vast majority of people were against it.
Deputy leader of the council Cllr Liz Bowley said the proportion of people who signed petitions against the store was a fraction of the total number of people who live in Ripley.
“People do voice their concerns about the town centre, but Ripley fares rather better than a lot of towns in the country. That doesn’t mean that we don’t want to see it doing better. I want it to be attractive for people to come into. That can be retail, but there are other reasons.
“Let’s find a unique selling point for Ripley. Obviously, shopping is one, but social interaction is another – places where people can browse.”
She added 37 per cent of Ripley shoppers went outside the town for their main shop.
Cllr Bradford added: “If the supermarket is successful, it could draw people in. This is about anchoring people to shop here.”
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