Market Hill store plan rejected by town councillors

PLANS to build on Royston’s former cattle market were rejected by town councillors at a packed meeting this week.

The town council’s planning control committee unanimously voted against the project – which would see a major convenience store and four flats built on the current car park site at Market Hill – after hearing the concerns of residents, campaigners, and a representative from the town’s businesses.

Objections included the size of the proposed two-storey building, the impact of a major retailer on other trade, potential traffic issues, as the site sits close to the A10, and the aesthetic effect on a heritage area.

Market Hill resident Guy Snell, who collected more than 500 signatures against the proposal, said: “Although we agree Royston needs national retailers in the town centre, it’s not clear how a convenience store in this position would help the High Street.

“In addition, we’re concerned there could be a lot of congestion and traffic problems on the A10.”

Developers Manhattan Corporation had earlier confirmed they had spoken to Tesco as well as Sainsburys, Co-op, and Waitrose, about the site.

An agent from the company, Don Proctor, said at the meeting: “I have heard a lot about the potential awful effects of the store. This is relatively small by current standards – it’s only 3,750 square feet in total.

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“A further retail convenience outlet at this end of the town will increase footfall and draw people to this part of the centre to the benefit of other retail outlets.

“We believe this application provides a wonderful opportunity to bring forward a mixed use development in a sustained manner in a suitable location and in accordance with planning policy.

“This is a major investment which would create 20 new jobs and is a vote of confidence in Royston town centre.”

Mr Proctor also said the company had worked closely with planning and parking officers, and concerns over building materials would be a key consideration.

But council leader Robert Smith feared the development would not meet the Royston Town Centre Strategy.

“In my view this proposal does not meet any of the three requirements regarding use, context with the surrounding buildings, or quality of the building itself,” he said.

“The other concern I have is road safety. A convenience store on the busy A10 trunk road doesn’t sound good practice to me, because people would surely be tempted to pull up in the rush hour to pop in and do their quick shopping.”

A decision on whether to approve the plan will be made by NHDC’s planning committee early next year.