Stane Park developers to appeal against Colchester council’s refusal of plans

Artist's impression of part of the proposed Stane Park development in Stanway.

Artist's impression of part of the proposed Stane Park development in Stanway. - Credit: Archant

Developers behind a planned leisure park on the edge of Colchester are appealing against the decision by Colchester Borough Council to turn down the proposals.

Churchmanor Estates applied to build Stane Park, comprising of a Starbucks, KFC, Nandos, Bella Italia, Coast to Coast and McMullens pub, opposite the Sainsbury’s supermarket in Tollgate, Stanway.

If approved Stane Park will provide an estimated 240 new jobs, while Churchmanor Estates also agreed to widen London Road to help cope with the anticipated increase in traffic levels.

However it was turned down by Colchester Borough Council planners recommended the plans were turned down due to the potential impact on Colchester town centre and the loss of employment land – with the site rated as premium employment land in the area which has a number of planned housing developments nearby.

The authority’s planning committee turned it down in a split vote.

The decision proved controversial as just a week before the meeting the council revealed its own plans for a north Essex hub cinema and restaurant scheme at Northern Gateway, ranked as best site in the borough for employment.

However Northern Gateway has outline planning permission dating back to 2005, before the latest employment studies and Local Plan.

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Stephen Clark, managing director of Churchmanor Estates, said: “It is with considerable regret and a heavy heart we have been forced to go to appeal. This the first time we have had to appeal in 25 years of investing in the borough.

“Many people have said to me the grounds for the refusal are political and I do wonder if our application would have been approved had the council not announced their own leisure scheme several days earlier.

“We deliberately sought to design the scheme so it did not impact the town centre and this is reflected in our choice of occupiers.

“Starbucks, KFC and Nandos already have town centre restaurants and Stanway offers them the opportunity to open a second in the town.

“Colchester Borough Council’s own independent report into employment land states Northern Gateway is the best employment land for factories and warehouses in Colchester and this includes the 18 acres the council own and where it proposes to give itself planning consent for the 12-screen multiplex and restaurants. By contrast Stane Park is considered secondary in the report but the council insist it must be preserved for factories and warehouses at all costs.

“What is pleasing is that the council saw the benefits of our high quality design. Tremendous care has been taken in dealing with all local residents’ concerns.”

It will now be down to a planning inspector to rule on the plans, if the appeal is accepted.

A council spokesman said: “The essence of the two very different planning situations is the Colchester Northern Gateway benefits from an outline planning permission granted in 2006, prior to the current Local Plan, on the basis this would cross-subsidise the provision of community infrastructure together with highway works required for other sites to be brought forward in north Colchester.

“The Stane Park site is of crucial importance to support jobs for the growing residential community of Stanway.”