Planning expert says Plymouth City Airport site plan 'won't take off'
MOVES to build a major new shopping centre on the former City Airport site are "just not in the running", says a planning expert.
Cathy Francis told the 11th day of a major planning inquiry that the airport was too far north and protected from development in the core strategy.
Mrs Francis, a director at Jones Lang LaSalle, was defending plans by Wharfside Regeneration (Devon) to build its own shopping centre on land next to Derriford Hospital.
But she was put on the spot by barrister Mary Cook, for Plymouth City Council, who accused her of jumping the gun ahead of the council's own blueprint for the Derriford and Seaton area.
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Wharfside is appealing against refusal of planning permission by the city council for its development of the 16.5-acre North West Quadrant site at Derriford.
The scheme would include a small supermarket, 356 homes, shops, restaurants, care facilities and a car park.
The council has earmarked the nearby Seaton Barracks parade ground as its preferred site for a district shopping centre with a 7,000 sq metre superstore.
Sutton Harbour Holdings, which is also taking part in the inquiry at the Jury's Inn in Plymouth, has published its own master plan for a massive housing and shopping development at the 113-acre City Airport at Roborough.
Mrs Francis quoted Herald articles about a 38,000-signature save-the-airport petition.
"The leader of the council is on record saying he will protect it at least until 2021, if not 2031," she said. "My view is that the airport is not in the running at all. It raises such significant issues, politically and from the local community."
She ruled out other possible sites for a shopping centre, including South West Water land on the west of Tavistock Road.
But Miss Cook told planning inquiry inspector David Nicholson that allowing the plan by Wharfside could scupper council plans to create a major new shopping centre for the north of Plymouth to rival the city centre.
She said there were concerns that only car parks and a supermarket would actually be built. If this happened, the development would not deliver a new shopping centre of the kind envisaged in the council's own blueprint, the area action plan for Derriford and Seaton.
The area action plan is expected to go to a public examination next year, and will allocate sites for different types of development.
"A supermarket and two multi-storey car parks is not the centre the council has envisaged," Miss Cook said.
"And, worse still, there would be no prospect of the council achieving that ambition because Wharfside would have got the supermarket, which is likely to kill off the prospects of any other district centre."
Miss Cook said Wharfside should wait until next year's public examination.
Mrs Francis said an earlier proposal to develop South West Water land south of B&Q off Tavistock Road was unlikely to happen in the short to medium term because the water treatment works and reservoir would have to be relocated.
She criticised the council's preferred site, on the former parade ground at Seaton Barracks.
She asked the inspector: "What is the harm of allowing this appeal?"
But Miss Cook said: "It would be unfair and unreasonable for you to try to use this inquiry to usurp the area action plan examination."