Plans to demolish Reigate Garden Centre and build 17 new houses have been approved by Reigate & Banstead’s planning committee.
The garden centre, in Sandcross Lane, is due to close in October. The owners sold the site (unconditionally) to developers Ashill Land late last year.
The location is classified as green belt, but a planning officer told the committee that the proposals would, if anything, have less of an impact on the openness of the green belt than the current use.
Less traffic would be generated than at present, the committee also heard, with parking provision acceptable as there would be 34 spaces for 17 houses.
Ashill Land will be required to make a £200,000 contribution to affordable housing.
The planning officer’s report – which described the development as “distinctive and high quality” – also concluded that the loss of the garden centre facility was justifiable from a planning perspective.
The report noted a letter from the owners of the garden centre saying that the closure was down to trading conditions, increasing competition, declining turnover and site constraints, and that even without the development the business would still be closing.
Information was also provided, by the developer, about alternative garden centres in the area that people could use.
Only one resident submitted a comment on the plans (against).
The committee voted to approve the proposals, subject to conditions, on 1 August.
The application should have been heard in July, but was postponed (with the agreement of the developer) because councillors wanted more time to understand affordable housing requirements.
The meeting heard that green belt land adjoining the site – NOT part of the application – is identified as a potential “urban extension” in the borough’s proposed Development Management Plan (DMP). Assuming the DMP comes into force as currently drafted (it’s with the Planning Inspectorate), the council could in future take the land out of green belt, releasing it for development – but only if there’s a shortage of land for housing in the borough. Any developer would still need to make a planning application.
(Reigate & Banstead’s draft Development Management Plan – Sandcross Lane urban extension at p.122 of the doc, policy at p.157)