HOME Bargains’ third attempt at getting a Gloucester store rests in the hands of councillors at odds with planning professionals over its effect on the city centre.
Gloucester City Council planning officers believe the application to allow food, drink, toys, perfumes and toiletries to be sold at a Peel Centre site should be turned down because the applicant hasn’t shown why other sites in the city centre are not more suitable.
But some members, and city council leader Paul James believe the thrift store retailer would not affect the city centre, including the long-awaited King’s Quarter redevelopment of King’s Square and the bus station.
“Home Bargains coming to the Peel Centre is not going to make a jot of difference to King’s Quarter,” he said. “It’s not the kind of retailer going there.
“But there is a need to stop unrestricted retail allocations as we have done, because we want to see King’s Quarter happen.”
That project hinges on funding coming forward for a new bus station, and striking a deal with King’s Square landowners Aviva, so Stanhope can work up a King’s Quarter scheme.
When it is built, councillors want to see higher end stores than Home Bargains there.
When the planning committee put the decision for a Home Bargains store on hold at its January meeting, member Lise Noakes (C, Barnwood) said she had Miss Selfridge in mind, and she and Gerald Dee (C, Tuffley) wanted the application to be given the go-ahead.
But Jeremy Hilton (LD, Kingsholm and Wotton) feared it could see the city centre’s focus shift south to the docks.
A revised report drawn up by city council planning officers recommends refusal but unusually they have taken the step of recommending conditions if members ignore their advice and give it the go-ahead.
It could get temporary or personal permission but officers say it could be hard to enforce.
Home Bargains has tried twice to get permission for stores in Eastern Avenue and Canada Wharf and the firm believes the former M&S store in Northgate Street isn’t suitable. The Peel Centre site, in two stores between Gala Bingo and Hobbycraft, is more suitable it says, because it is nearer the city centre.
Planning officer Adam Smith says permission shouldn’t be granted as the site is outside the city centre and another store could come in and take Home Bargains’ place.
“It is also advised that members carefully consider the implications of any resolution on the status and availability of sites such as the former M&S unit or King’s Quarter,” he said.
Peel declined to comment on the matter, which will be debated at the next city council planning committee meeting on February 4.