During a very well attended Cherwell District Council planing committee meeting the bid by Euro Garage Group for a J11 motorway services was rejected outright.
The controversial plans to build a petrol station, offices and a warehouse complex on land east of the M40 and west of the A361, on land known as Banbury 15, came to a crashing halt as committee members voted unanimously to reject the development on a number of grounds.
During a 20 minute presentation by planning case officer Matthew Parry, flaws in the development’s design, purpose and need were all highlighted. Chief among them was traffic congestion that the development would bring and the inadequate provisions to deal with the extra vehicular movements.
The land has been designated specifically in the Local Plan for use of B1, B2 and B8 businesses which a service station does not fall in. The petrol station was also criticised for being a low density employer while taking up almost half of the site.
The site has to provide for 1000 jobs as outlined in the Local Plan. With the service station employing around 100 people but taking up 47 per cent of the site Mr Parry said it seemed unlikely that the offices and warehouse could provide employment opportunities for the remaining 900.
Tom Jeremiah, group planning director at EG Group, was allocated five minutes to speak in favour of the plan and essentially reiterated his statement published by the BG on June 14,
Summing up he also outlined the plan to use solar power and rainwater recycling at the site.
Cllr Beere presented the motion to refuse the plan on technical grounds with Cllr Dhesi seconding the motion.
Cllr Colin Clarke, lead member of planning, said they had spent an ‘inordinate amount of time’ with the applicant via meetings, emails and phone calls to resolve issues raised concluding that ‘they haven’t been resolved.’
Cllr Clarke also said that the site, as viewed by people coming from the south Northants direction would see it as a ‘glaring monstrosity.’
Further comment came from recently elected councillor Casi Perry who indicated that within her ward, (Banbury Cross and Neithrop) there sat behind B&Q used offices that had been vacant for three years, questioning the likelihood that office space on the site would be full to capacity. The one word of caution came from Cllr Barry Wood, who after appearing to suggest that this plan could be even worse, eventually asked Mr Parry how strong a refusal of the plan would stand up on appeal, particularly as part of the refusal was due to a perceived lack of need for a service station.
The need or viability of a business venture housed in a building that needs planning permission is not part of the planning process.
A businesses ability to stay financially afloat is immaterial to the legality of the building it inhabits.
Mr Parry, however, stated that in this particular case, as the plan submitted is not within the designated uses as outlined in the Local Plan then a compelling argument for a need for such a business would be required for the planning officer to recommend approval.
The Euro Garage Group have six months to appeal the decision.