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Hobbycraft loses appeal to build new Farnborough store

The retailer was seeking, on appeal, permission to open up a new store at Farnborough Gate following unanimous objection by councillors

Rushmoor Borough Council
Rushmoor Borough Council

Hobbycraft has lost its appeal to build a new store within Blackwater Shopping Park, just days before the site was sold to new owners for £78 million.

The retailer applied for planning permission to build a new unit within the retail park, known as Farnborough Gate, last July but this was refused by councillors in October that year.

Rushmoor Borough Council’s planning committee unanimously rejected the plans following concerns over traffic congestion and the impact the shop could have on Farnborough town centre.

An appeal was launched in February and Hobbycraft revised its plans to include a staff car park to the rear of the proposed Hobbycraft site, to add 41 parking spaces. However, the appeal was dismissed by an inspector this month.

Government inspector Christina Downes said there were too many alternative potential locations for the development.

Knight Frank Investment Management (KFIM), owner of Princes Mead shopping centre, recently revealed plans to extend the centre and build an additional three retail units. KFIM had been hopeful that Hobbycraft would move into one of the available sites in the town centre, but Hobbycraft was adamant it would only open stores in retail park and out of town locations.

Ms Downes said in her report: “The main dispute on which the appeal turns is whether there are sequentially preferable sites that could accommodate the proposed development.

“The appellant’s sequential assessment has identified a number of sites within Farnborough town centre but rejects them all on the basis that they do not meet one or more of the above requirements.

“Whilst there may be no sequentially preferable site for Hobbycraft there is no reasonable condition that could guarantee that this company would occupy the unit in perpetuity.

“The council’s spatial strategy is for a town centre approach which accords with policies aiming to ensure the vitality of town centres.”

The appeal decision comes days before Blackwater Shopping Park was sold by TIAA Henderson Real Estate to Lothbury Property Trust last Friday.

The retail park was sold on behalf of TH Real Estate’s UK retail warehouse fund, a pooled fund of which clients invest money.

A spokesman for TH Real Estate said they felt it was the right time to sell.

He added: "Part of the strategy of this fund has been to increase the value of its assets before selling them on.

"Having carried out several asset management initiatives at this park, and given the current market climate, the fund recognised that this was a good time to sell."

 
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