Decision on Soham supermarket plans put back until September as concerns flood in

PUBLISHED: 15:28 31 May 2012

The site of the proposed Soham Superstore at the junction of The Shade and Kingfisher Drive.

The site of the proposed Soham Superstore at the junction of The Shade and Kingfisher Drive.

Archant

SOHAM will have to wait until September to hear whether it will get a new supermarket after the decision date was put back three months.

English Heritage concerns

ENGLISH Heritage say the implications for the “historic environment” must be fully understood prior to the plans being considered.

David Grech, Historic Areas Adviser at English Heritage, said nearby Northfield is “amongst the finest remains of medieval agriculture in the country”.

The Conservation Area Appraisal for Soham states: “The main survival of medieval Soham is in the field system.

“The town is unique in having an almost intact open field system surrounding the urban core and was never enclosed.”

Mr Grech said the archaeological assessment which accompanies the application makes no mention of the surviving medieval field system.

He said: “English Heritage recommends that the applicant is asked to address this issue so that the implications of the application on the historic environment are fully understood prior to the application being considered.”

Harrier Developments will not hear the verdict on their plans for a 41,000sq ft foodstore, petrol station and community-style pub/restaurant until September 25.

The developers, who are thought to be in talks with several supermarket chains, were expecting a decision on their proposals for the site east of The Shade on June 25.

But “due to the outstanding issues yet to be resolved in respect of concerns raised by consultees”, East Cambridgeshire District Council say they will not be able to make a decision by that date.

The council is also proposing to carry out more research “in respect of the impact of the proposals on retailing in the town and on the landscape of the area”.

Archaeological implications

MORE information is needed regarding archaeology on the site before the plans can be considered, a senior archaeologist has warned.

Andy Thomas, from Cambridgeshire County Council’s Historic Environment Team, said the extent, character and significance of surviving archaeology must be considered.

He said the council would disagree with the conclusions of a report submitted with the application, which considers the “currently identified archaeological assets known in the vicinity, and the post medieval/modern land use”.

Mr Thomas claimed the report should include physical evaluation of the archaeological character and strategies to mitigate the impact of the development on archaeology.

“Without this additional information we would object to the planning application,” he said.

The delay comes after the Co-operative supermarket chain claimed a new superstore would damage the “vitality” of the town.

The Co-op, which has a store in Soham town centre, has formally raised its concerns with the council.

They say an out-of-town supermarket would “seriously damage the vitality of the town’s shops and services, driving footfall away from the town centre and threatening future investment”.

Mark Eldridge, regional operations manager for Co-operative Food, said: “If the application is accepted, the anticipated annual turnover is likely to be around £21.8 million, a huge figure which would be at the expense of town centre stores.

“This new store, if given the go ahead, would seriously threaten the future of our existing town centre store, which plays a key role generating footfall and underpinning Soham and other town centre shops.

“Shoppers will be less likely to visit the town centre at all if they can do their shopping at an out-of-town supermarket.

“There are too many examples of town centres which have suffered from out-of-centre developments already, and we don’t want to see Soham become another one.”

A spokesman for Harrier Developments previously told the Ely Standard that Soham is not served well by modern facilities or services in the town.

“Overall, concerns have been raised by the district council over the long-term vitality of the town which reinforces the need to promote and encourage future commercial and employment growth,” the spokesman said.

“The recent household survey work undertaken by Harrier has confirmed that the great majority of people living in Soham are forced to travel to towns elsewhere, such as Ely, Newmarket and Cambridge, to gain access to jobs, services and modern food store shopping facilities.”

It is expected the store could bring 200 jobs to the area. If the planning application is successful work could start at the end of the year.

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