Focus DIY's plans to move to Ely look in doubt

PUBLISHED: 13:30 01 April 2008 | UPDATED: 10:20 04 May 2010

GIANT DIY chain, Focus, looked set to lose the second round in its fight to bring a new store to Ely when planners met yesterday (Wednesday). The company s £7 million project for Lisle Lane was destined for rejection again on the basis that it could impac

GIANT DIY chain, Focus, looked set to lose the second round in its fight to bring a new store to Ely when planners met yesterday (Wednesday).

The company's £7 million project for Lisle Lane was destined for rejection again on the basis that it could impact on city centre shops and the view from Roswell Pits, and was too big within the new Ely Conservation Area.

The site also has poor footpath links to the city centre offering little opportunity for "linked trips", East Cambridgeshire District Council's planning committee members were told.

The council's Master Plan suggests Lisle Lane should be developed for housing, linking the river with a new country park.

It is the second time Focus DIY has made a bid to bring its store and garden centre to the city, creating 40 new jobs.

Planners had complained that the company had not looked at other city sites - but it argued that alternatives were currently being used or under option to other companies.

Simon Hoare, spokesman for Location 3 Properties, working to bring Focus DIY into Ely, said: "The council is looking to make Lisle Lane residential, yet there are plans for a massive retail park on Angel Drove which is further out of the city centre. They can't have their cake and eat it too.

"There is a lot of good in the Master Plan, but it is regrettable if current proposals were to be ditched because of it. They should be underscoring Ely as a place to come and shop. But there is a lot of evidence that people are getting in their cars to go elsewhere to do this sort of shopping.

"The Master Plan has no status. It is there for guidance. The senior document is the Local Development Framework or the Regional Spatial Strategy."

Giles Hughes, head of planning at East Cambridgeshire District Council, said the Angel Drove development was considered self-sustainable because it was a "proper business park" and included a hotel and restaurant.

"It would be quite helpful for people on this site not to have to drive into the city centre," he said.

He added that the Master Plan aims to significantly upgrade the Lisle Lane area.

"It doesn't have the nicest environment at the moment and getting high quality development along there rather than big retail sheds could help to create a great entry into the country park," he said. "But the Master Plan is not set in stone. It is a draft document that we are consulting on and it is not the 'be all and end all'.

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