What's it all about ?
Stony Stratford (the 'jewel of Milton Keynes') is a busy market town with a vibrant High Street. Shoe-horning a massive supermarket into the town centre is not a good idea, and will cut off other, flexible, future-proof, options for development of Cofferidge Close... read more >>
Cofferidge Close is a pleasant mixed-use development in the centre of Stony Stratford's Conservation Area...read more >>>
A planning application - rejected by MKC in March 2013- for major demolition and replacement with a bigger supermarket and car park was filed in January 2011... read more >>>
Stony Stratford Town Council and many hundreds of local residents objected to the proposal as being out of scale ...read more >>>
The Town Council and many residents would prefer a 'Plan B': re-use the existing buildings, maintain the trees and landscaping.. read more >>>
Any questions ?? ... try our FAQ page >>>
Links & Resources
What now ?
MKC unanimously rejected the application for the demolition of most of Cofferidge Close for the construction of an out-of-scale supermarket; this decision went to Appeal. After a Public Inquiry in March, the Appeal was dismissed.
What happens next ? Watch this space for further News ...
April 19th: Press Release Issued
Local resident Mike O'Sullivan has prepared a press release for the local papers, outlining the background to the recent Appeal, and summarising the Inspector's conclusions and reactions of 'Rule 6' party members.
Please note that there is a public meeting of the Town Council Planning Committee scheduled for Tuesday April 22nd, staring at 7.15 pm in the Library. Cofferidge Close is one of the items due for discussion
>> Click here to download the press release
April 16th : We win - the Appeal is dismissed!
Inspector Middleton's decision was announced today : he has dismissed the appeal by the owners of Cofferidge Close, on the grounds that the proposed development would be harmful to the character and appearance of the Stony Stratford Conservation Area and the setting of the listed buildings in Silver Street. In his report, he casts doubts on the owner's claim that the buildings planned for demolition are obsolete, and notes that there is strong interest from potential local tenants for their re-use (i.e 'Plan B').
>> Click here to download the full text of the Appeal Decision
March 15th: A decision by Easter?
The closing submissions by the three barristers (for Stony Town Council / Save Cofferidge Close, MKC, and CBRE) were made on the final morning of the Inquiry. The Inspector indicated that he would finalise his report by April 12th. We do not know how soon after that date the Planning Inspectorate will notify us of the decision - at the earliest, it could be by Easter.
A big "thank you" to all the members of the local community who took the time (and the courage!) to stand up and speak against the planning application submitted by CBRE. It was significant that no-one from the town came along to speak in favour of the proposed development...
March 12th: The Inquiry - where do we stand?
The daily routine is a ponderous and rather tedious process of presentations of evidence by expert witnesses, with much consultation of reports and official planning documents and their many appendices, followed by cross-examination by each side's barristers and the Inspector. Last week it was the Town Council and the Save Cofferidge Close group ' in the dock', this week it is mainly the developer's turn. This process has been enlivened by contributions from many local interested parties, including members of the Stony Stratford Business Association - all opposed to the development - on the two mornings set aside for this.
Overall, what the Inspector will make of it all is hard to judge - clearly, he cannot give out any hints as to his thinking. He does, however, seem particularly concerned about the impact of the proposed development on traffic and parking, and has asked that the Council's Highways Officer appears at the Appeal and explains how and why MKC came to the view that these were not grounds for rejection of the planning application.
The Inspector will make a site visit on Thursday afternoon (March 13th) and closing submissions by each side's barristers are scheduled for Friday morning, from 9.30 onwards.
It's difficult to say so far who is 'winning'. The battle (if one can describe it as such) is certainly asymmetrical in terms of each side's resources: the developer is spending a small fortune on their QC, legal team, and their highly paid expert witnesses, most of whom seem to be in attendance every day. The financial resources available to MKC and Stony Town Council are tiny in comparison, and also rely heavily on the contributions of unpaid experts and witnesses.
Feb 8th: Plan B takes shape
Outline designs for re-configuring the existing building in Cofferidge Close have now been drawn up and submitted for consideration at the Public Inquiry.
The plans have been prepared after consultation with the two GP Practices, Acorn Nurseries, and Budgens.
- a nursery and ancillary health services on the ground floor of the Office Block
- the two GP Practices on the first floor
- a 20% increase in the retail floor area of Budgens supermarket.
The four stakeholders involved have all committed to these plans, which also have the advantage of re-using the existing building, and avoiding all the cost, disruption, and wastage that demolition would involve.
It remains to be seen whether the owners of Cofferidge Close, the Yorkshire & Clydesdale Bank Pension Trustee Fund, will consider this Plan B as an acceptable alternative to wholescale demolition for construction of a big supermarket...
Feb 6th: Inquiry Date & Venue confirmed
The Planing Inspectorate has now officially confirmed the date and venue of the Public Inquiry into the Appeal by CBRE Gloobal Investors against the decision by MKC to reject the planning application for demolition of much of Cofferidge Close for the construction of a big supermarket.
The inquiry will start on Tuesday March 4th at 10.00 in the Function Room at the Cock Hotel, High Street, Stony. It is estimated to take up to 8 days (March 4,5,6,7 and March 11, 12, 13, & 14).
The Inquiry is open to the public throughout. If you wish to speak at the Inquiry, it is best to turn up at 10.00 on the morning of the first day (March 4th) to express that intention, and agree a time and date for your intervention.
Dec 18th: Objection to listing of Cofferidge Close as an Asset of Community Value
Milton Keynes Council have received a formal letter from Pinsent Masons, the solicitors acting for CBRE Global Investors and the owners of Cofferidge Close, the Yorkshire and Clydesdale Bank Pension Trust, objecting to the registration of Cofferidge Close as an Asset of Community Value (see News item of December 10th, below). They are demanding that MKC reviews the registration by mid-February. This is yet another example of the continuing attempts by the owners of the Close to over-ride local and community decisions...
December 16th: Silver Street Residents
The residents of the row of the listed houses in Silver Street which form an integral part of the Cofferidge Close scheme are registered with the Planning Inspectorate as an 'interested party' at the Appeal.
They agree with Milton Keynes Council that the proposal to demolish much of Cofferidge Close for a large supermarket is contrary to policies HE5 and HE6 of the Milton Keynes Local Plan 2001-2011, Policy CS19 of the Core Strategy, and paragraphs 134 and 135 of the National Planning Policy Framework.
In their letter* to the Planning Inspector they ask him to dismiss the Appeal for reasons of :
- loss of setting, to the detriment of the character, appearance and significance of a listed building of national interest
- loss of residential amenity.
* Click here to download the full text of their letter.
December 11th: Statements of Case
A key stage in the timetable leading up to the Public Inquiry (which starts on March 4th) is the submission of 'Statements of Case' by MKC, the Appellant, and Rule 6 parties. These were submitted to the Planning Inspectorate on schedule by the November 22nd deadline.
The joint statement of case on behalf of the two Rule 6 parties - Stony Stratford Town Council and the Save Cofferidge Close group - can be downloaded by clicking here ; the statement of case by MKC can be downloaded here (both are small PDF files).
The above documents, together with the Statement of Case from the Appellant and correspondence from 'interested parties' can also be downloaded from the MKC website (but it's a massive 54 MB file!).
The next deadline is February 4th, when each party is required to submit their 'Proofs of evidence', outlining the evidence which will be presented at the Inquiry to back up their case.
December 10th: A Community Asset
The Localism Act 2011, part of the Government’s community empowerment agenda, requires local councils to maintain a list of Assets of Community Value. If such an asset came to be sold, a moratorium on its sale of up to six months may be invoked, providing a local community group with a chance to raise funds and make a bid to purchase on the open market.
Cofferidge Close has been identified by MKC as a Community Asset. Our City Council is to be commended for taking this step, which recognises the community value of Cofferidge Close because of its mixed-use nature and the essential role that it plays in the life of Stony Stratford.
But this is only part of the story. In a parallel move, the City Council is in the process of drawing up a scheme of Local Listing for buildings and structures which mirrors the long-standing national scheme of listing. It can reasonably be assumed that Cofferidge Close would be included in this Local List.
November 4th: Appeal Inquiry date announced
The Planning Inspectorate has now formally announced the date for the Public Inquiry, to be held locally at a venue yet to be confirmed. The Inquiry will open on Tuesday March 4th 2014, and is estimated to take 8 days, as requested by CBRE Investors..
The deadline for submission of comments by interested parties, and for Stony Town Council and the Save Cofferidge Close group to submit 'statements of case' is November 22nd.
The latest date for for the issue of a decision on the appeal is May 23rd 2014.
October 24th: One shop less in the High Street?
One ot the three grounds for rejection of the planning application for Cofferidge Close was the potential loss of the Dental Practice. However, Barton Willmore, agents for the site owners, have submitted a planning application for change of use of the retail unit on the High Street, currently occupied by a 'Y Pay More' shop, to a dental practice. The application is "... for the principle of the change of use only", assuming that they win the appeal, and the office block and existing dental practice are demolished to make way for the proposed supermarket. Amazingly, the submitted planning statement makes no mention of the unanimous rejection by MKC of the wider planning application for Cofferidge Close...
October 10th: Rule 6 Status granted to us
The 'Save Cofferidge Close' group has now been granted Rule 6 status by the Planning Inspectorate, so we are now a main party in the Public Inquiry with equal status to CBRE and MKCouncil. Stony Stratford Town Council has also been granted Rule 6 status.
The Planning Inspectorate says that "... Rule 6 parties can offer significant value to the inquiry process (when they) add substantively to the case being made by the local planning authority". Which is exactly what we intend to do - we have at least 4 weeks from the start date (not yet announced) to produce our statement of case.
October 4th: Appeal documents available here
Appeal documents submitted by Barton Wilmore, agents for CBRE Investors, are now available, and the two key ones can be downloaded below. In summary, they are asking for an 8 day (!) Public Inquiry, and intend to call 6 witnesses. They are contesting the three grounds on which the DCC unanimously rejected the planning application, namely over development of the site, damage to a heritage asset, and loss of the dental practice.
The Inquiry will be held in MK Civic Offices, probably in March 2014.
>> Postal Appeal Form pdf (click to download)
>> Grounds of Appeal document pdf (click to download)
September 21st: Public Inquiry likely
We have learnt from MKC that a public inquiry will be held locally to judge the appeal made by CBRE's agents. This is likely to take place some time in January or February 2014.
MKC will shortly be writing to all of you who commented on the original application, to let you know that your previous comments and objections will be sent to the Planning Inspectorate for consideration. You will also be invited to submit any new comments or objections.
We are still waiting for the developer's appeal documents to be put in the public domain (on the MKC and Planning Inspectorate websites).
Why not download and print out the poster above to display in your window?
September 13th: Black Friday
We have just been informed by MKC that CBRE Investors, through their agents, Barton Willmore, have filed an appeal against the unanimous decision by MKC Development Control Committee to reject the planning application for the proposed re-development of Cofferidge Close. Today - Friday 13th, six months after the DCC decision - was the very last day on which an appeal could be lodged. Why have they waited until the very last minute?
And we are not surprised to learn that the letter to CBRE from Dr Goyal, expressing the interest of the two GP practices in converting the empty office block into a new Health Centre, has remained unanswered...
Watch this space for more news once we have had a chance to study the appeal documents filed by the developers...
August 14th: still in limbo
We are still none the wiser as to the intentions of the owners of Cofferidge Close. On July 23rd, Dr Goyal wrote to the person responsible for Cofferidge Close at CBRE Investors in London expressing the interest of both GP practices "... in locating new premises within Stony Stratford " and that they think ".. the Cofferidge Close Office Block could be an ideal solution for us (and that they) ... would appreciate your (CBRE's) view and would like an opportunity to access the building and assess its suitability in more detail."
Three weeks later, this letter has neither been acknowledged nor answered.
June 8th: this is a town in limbo...
Various attempts have been made to try to find out what the owner's intentions are for Cofferidge Close - it's now 12 weeks since the DCC planning refusal so we are half way through the 6 month period allowed for an appeal. But we do not know whether an appeal is being planned - all we know is that CBRE Investors (acting for the owner, National Australia Bank) have said that they were “... still considering all options”. But despite the request from DCC Chair Brian White that CBRE should consult the local community after their application had been refused, so far this has not happened.
The two GP practices are very interested in the idea of conversion of the Office Block into a new Health Centre: a first step would be an opportunity to visit the building and assess its suitability, but so far CBRE have not responded to requests for access for such a visit.
Surely responsible ownership of Cofferidge Close, which is in the centre of Stony Stratford, should mean a connection to the Town rather than simply seeing it as a piece of land for the real estate portfolio of a remote owner. Having ignored the community so far by persisting with a supermarket planning application no-one wanted, are CBRE going to continue to ignore the views of the Town? What better use can there be the office block than for a Health Centre? If CBRE are considering all options why have they not tried to meet with the Doctors?
The Town Council has voted unanimously to ask MK Council to nominate Cofferidge Close for the Community Asset Register and the application is now being prepared by SSTC chair Rob Gifford – such registration would give the community a say in any future sale of Cofferidge Close.
So, it's still a matter of “wait and see”, and in the meantime the Budgens franchisee and the owners of the Dental Practice are still in the dark about the future length of their leases, and the condition of the empty Office Block continues to deteriorate. We say it's not good enough!
March 14th: DCC rejects the application !
The meeting of the DCC was packed tonight. The members voted unanimously to reject the application for re-development of Cofferidge Close, on the grounds presented by the MKC case Officer, Debbie Kirk (scale, heritage, loss of the Dental Practice). Excellent presentations were made objecting to the proposal, by Rob Gifford (Chair of Stony Town Council), Phil Wharton (Stony Ward Councillor) , and Graham Benjamin (from the 'Save Cofferidge Close' group). The applicant's representatives made two rather weak presentations, which failed to convince the DCC...
So, good sense has prevailed, and this battle is won, but,as the DCC Chairman pointed out, if the developers appeal against the decision, the war is not yet over...
Presentations made at the DCC meeting
Councillor McLean said of the three presentations made in objection to the planning application for Cofferidge Close: “They were the best presentations I think I have heard in my two years of being on the Development Control Committee”. This is praise indeed!
Rob Gifford, Phil Wharton, and Graham Benjamin have kindly made the texts of their presentations available for us to put on the website, and you can download them as pdf files below:
>> Objection by Rob Gifford, Chair of Stony Town Council
>> Objection by Phil Wharton, Stony Ward Councillor
>> Objection by Graham Benjamin, Save Cofferidge Close
The other star of the evening was Debbie Kirk, MKC Case Officer, who has shown remarkable skill, patience, and commitment in handling this application and preparing the report recommending rejection. You can download a summary of the reasons she cites for objection, below:
>> Case Officer, reasons for rejection summary
We do not have copies of the two presentations made by the applicant's agents, sorry ...
>> Draft minutes of the meeting from MKC
March 8th: Stony Medical Centre for 'Plan B'
Click above to download lettter
A letter from Dr Goyal, GP Principal of the Stony Medical Centre, appeared today on the MKC website expressing a very strong interest, on behalf of both practices in the current health centre, in leasing the vacant Cofferidge Close office block. He says it would be "... the perfect site for a health centre (and) allied services including pharmacy, physio, etc". The current Market Square building, he says, is now unfit for purpose, is too small, and would require major refurbishment.
This proposal demolishes the main argument given by the applicants for the demolition of the office block, namely that they cannot find a suitable tenant for it. What could be more suitable for a long-term tenancy than a Medical Centre ? Furthermore, unlike a big supermarket, the move from the Market Square to the Close would have no net impact on traffic or parking problems in the town centre.
>> Read more...
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This site has been created and is administered by a group of independent residents of Stony Stratford
This site has been created and is administered by a group of independent residents of Stony Stratford