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Latest version of Redhill Sainsbury's scheme due before planners
10:54am Wednesday 13th February 2013 in News
Borough planners were this week expected to give the go-ahead to the latest version of multi-million pound plans to redevelop the existing Sainsbury's store and Lombard House office block in Redhill town centre. The application from Sainsbury's and Aviva Investors for an extended Sainsbury's three times the size of the existing one, and also including a gymnasium and multi-storey car park, is similar to the scheme approved last year, but with one major difference.
For this plan, Sainsbury's and Aviva Investors have omitted the 98-bedroom hotel forming part of the scheme.
The change comes despite Reigate and Banstead Borough Council giving the thumbs-up last year to the scheme, including the hotel.
But a borough council spokeswoman described the latest version of the plan as a “fall-back” position.
She said the latest version of the plan had been drawn up because of worries over the viability of the hotel, but added that the council would prefer it to be included, and so had now agreed to work with Sainsbury's and Aviva over its funding, to see if together, they could make it viable.
“We would prefer the scheme with the hotel, so we are going to see what we can do to make it work,” she said.
If the council planning committee, which was due to make a decision on the scheme in Reigate Town Hall tonight, give it the thumbs-up, as they had been recommended to, it would mean there was backing for two schemes either with, or without, the hotel.
A report due to go before them stated that legal advice from the council's planning solicitor advised that “refusal of the application would be unreasonable.”
The report pointed out that the factors decided on last year which led to councillors' agreeing the benefits of the scheme outweighed the disadvantages, and giving consent, were still the same.
These factors included expansion of retail and leisure in the town centre which would help with Redhill's regeneration, the provision of town centre car parking, and contributions to the council's sustainable travel initiatives.
Citing the loss of office space from the scheme, the report stated: “It also remains the case that the current office accommodation on the site is outdated and that there is a high level of vacant office space within the town.
“In these circumstances, legal advice is that the refusal of the application would be unreasonable.”
There were no objections lodged by any of the main bodies involved, with the Reigate Society, the civic society for Reigate, Redhill and Merstham, repeating previous concerns but stating the scale of the development was improved by the loss of the hotel from the scheme.
Sainsbury's has said the plan would mean the creation of at least 350 new full and part-time jobs. It would not reveal the cost of the redevelopment, saying the figures were commercially sensitive, but said it would help attract new shoppers to Redhill, and redevelop a key brownfield site in the town centre. Previously, a Sainsbury's spokesman said the town's store would have to close during the redevelopment work, but probably only for seven to ten days.
A start and completion date for the scheme has yet to be confirmed.