CONTROVERSIAL plans for a budget superstore at the gateway to the Georgian gem town of Cockermouth have been knocked back – for the third time.

Members of Allerdale council’s planning panel threw out proposals for a B&M Homestore amid claims the development would spoil the character of town and would lead to a loss of precious employment land.

These were the same reasons given when the panel threw out the application in July 2018, though developers had made some adjustments to the original plans.

The town’s Chamber of Trade, the Civic Trust and Cockermouth Town Council all opposed the development, with representatives for each speaking at today’s meeting (February 5).

Concerns included traffic congestion, the felling of trees to make way for the development and the impact on Cockermouth’s status as an historic market town.

It was also suggested that the out-of-town superstore would deal a further blow to independent traders still reeling from the floods of 2015.

Gary Whetton, general manager of the Lakes Home Centre, said: “This is now the third attempt for the developer to bulldoze through this development. The independent store next to the site has operated for 20 years now and has paid nearly £2.5m in business rates - and how are they rewarded? With an identical store and garden centre with a national discount chain right next door.

“Competition is fine, but this seems ridiculous. Surely two refusals must be telling them something and how can they be allowed to just keep on submitting the same plans until they obtain approval?

“This development is huge, overbearing and will cause untold damage to the town and its shops – and all to line the pockets of a multinational with an expand or die mentality.”

Joan Ellis, Allerdale councillor for Cockermouth, revealed that “many” of her constituents were opposed to the plans.

She  said “The current situation with the traders is very fragile with some shops vacant after the 2015 floods and some still recovering. Four banks have closed with the fifth on reduced hours.

“The gigantic drive in drive out retail unit will most definitely affect the vitality and viability of the town centre and will be built on precious employment land.

“Retailers have stated that competition is healthy and are not objecting to B&M per se but are against the out-of-town location.

She told the meeting that there were already two B&M stores in Workington, one in Maryport, one in Whitehaven, one in Wigton and two in Penrith with the “vitality” of these towns all hit hard by out-of-town retail.

However, a petition in support of the proposals was presented by coun Alan Smith on behalf of his constituents though not as a member of Allerdale and Cockermouth town councils.

Speaking before the result was announced, planning agent Jeremy Williams confirmed that B&M was “still committed” to opening a store on the site despite previous knockbacks, with a 15-year lease in place subject to the plans being given the green light.

He said: “The fact that B&M continue to seek representation in Cockermouth is clearly a significant positive investment for the town. Unlike some national retailers B&M continues to expand and invest across the UK.

“The proposal will deliver significant benefits including the creation of around 65 jobs, securing a multi-million investment in Cockermouth, regeneration of a brownfield site land, improve shopping provision for the town, many of whom now have to travel to other towns to access the goods they want.

The plans also included a “flexible employment unit” which could be used for offices, general industry or storage.

Agents said the building of the B&M Homestore would increase the chances of getting an occupier in the ancillary building included as part of the plans.

An appeal has already been lodged against the previous refusal

The formal grounds for refusal included the loss of employment land and visual amenity.