National toy retailer The Entertainer aims to move its huge distribution operation to Banbury.
The fast-growing toy outlet has 90 stores in the UK, including one in Banbury. It hopes to get consent to move its logistics into a vast warehouse on the former SAPA/Alcan site on Southam Road.
But the Banbury Civic Society (BCS) laments the loss of opportunity for more high skilled employment in the town.
It is also concerned that Cherwell District Council will abandon its own pledge to limit the height of buildings on that site to 16.5 metres. The new plan asks for a building more than 19 metres high.
“I’m worried this will set a precedent,” said society chairman Rob Kinchin-Smith. “It is nearly 20m tall against a limit of up to 16.5m as the ‘absolute maximum’ the site could be expected to contain, agreed by the site’s owner, Standard Life, and Cherwell planners two years ago for the outline approval.
“As you leave town you will see these huge sheds which will loom over the water meadows.
“It’s a sad indictment of our economic and planning policies that our drinks cans now go to Malaysia to be recycled (using the plant removed from Banbury), whilst the best use we can find for ‘the Ally’ site is yet another massive, automated shed for goods made in China.
“BCS had argued that the site of ‘the Ally’ should be safeguarded for skilled or high-employment uses by restricting its potential uses to exclude warehousing. Clearly we lost the argument. With a million square feet of potential distribution warehousing consented for the Central M40 site adjacent to the motorway, it’s difficult to work up huge enthusiasm for the use of half of the Alcan site as a massive distribution centre.”
The warehouse plans can be seen at cherwell.gov.uk – application number 14/00628/F.