Around £50m is being drained from Jersey every year due to online shopping on Amazon alone – but building a new home, garden and leisure superstore at the Motor Mall site could help stop the leakage, a planning inspector was told during an appeal hearing yesterday.
Founded by Jersey resident Chris Dawson and describing itself as the “fastest growing retailer in the UK”, The Range had applied to change the motor showroom, sales area, workshop and petrol forecourt into one of its stores.
However, was turned down by Planning in February, which has concluded that the change of use does not adhere to policies set out in the Island Plan.
The department argues that the application also runs counter to the Bridging Island Plan, which was approved in March.
On Tuesday morning, independent planning inspector Nigel McGurk held a hearing before he makes a recommendation to whoever the new Environment Minister is on whether the appeal should be upheld, or Planning’s decision maintained.
Specifically, Planning argue that the application runs counter to policy ‘ER2’ in the Bridging Island Plan, which states: “Proposals for the provision of new large-scale retail outside of the built-up area will not be supported.”
This was also the argument of Romerils, who submitted an objection via Stancec UK which also argued that "the application proposal will cause detriment to the vitality and viability of St. Helier Town Centre and must be refused on the basis of retail impact."
Planning's appeal officer, Jonathan Gladwin, also said that the Range would encourage car usage when Government policy, stated in the BIP, Sustainable Transport Policy and the Carbon Neutral Roadmap, was to promote greener forms of transport.
For the Range, planning consultant Stephanie Steedman argued that this was not a new development, in that the Range would move into an existing building, with a few slight changes.
She also said that with the Motor Mall consolidating into the Jacksons site in St. Peter, and the forecourt closing, there would be fewer car journeys to and from the site than present.
Mrs Steedman added that the ER2 policy in the BIP should not be seen in isolation, with other policies supporting economic regeneration.
Pictured: The Range want to move into the existing Motor Mall building along Grande Route de St. Jean.
She said that the town centre – which ER2 seeks to protect – would not be significantly impacted by the Range, and it would remain the island’s retail, commercial and cultural centre.
Mike Cotter, Property Manager of the Range, said that the company was ready to invest £11m in the island and would create flexible job opportunities.
He added that, after five years of trying to find a suitable site, if the appeal was rejected, it would be the “end of the road”.
Jacksons Group CEO Paul Collier told the hearing that the changes in the motor trade – driven by the move to electric vehicles, which has led to lower margins and falling demand for services – meant that consolidation was necessary to retain brands and profitability.
He said that being in one location would save £0.5m a year in overheads and it followed a recent similar move for the business in the Isle of Man, which had been successful.
Mr Collier said that the one business which had objected to the Range application had previously approached him to buy the Motor Mall site.
Others speaking in favour of the application included Nick Steel of Jersey Business, who said that islanders currently spent £50m a year with Amazon and it was important that locally-based businesses were encouraged.
He added that shops in Jersey were too expensive for many islanders, and the Range would offer a more affordable alternative in the home and leisure market.
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