Refusal recommended for Stevenage TK Maxx relocation plans

Outside the TK Maxx store in The Forum in Stevenage

The lease for the existing TK Maxx store in The Forum in Stevenage expires in September - Credit: Google Maps

Planning officers have made a recommendation to refuse planning permission for the relocation of Stevenage's TK Maxx store, ahead of a committee meeting on Tuesday where councillors are set to make their decision.

The popular store - currently located in The Forum in the town centre - submitted an application to open a TK Maxx and HomeSense shop at the former Toys R Us unit in the Roaring Meg Retail Park.

CGI image of how the new TK Maxx and Homesense store would look at Stevenage's ROARING Meg Retail park

CGI image of how the new TK Maxx and Homesense store would look at Stevenage's ROARING Meg Retail park - Credit: TK Maxx

The Roaring Meg site is described at "the only viable option" for the retailer to remain in the town, as its current lease has not been renewed. 

However - according to planning officers advising Stevenage Borough Council's Planning Control Committee - there are two other sites deemed "more suitable".

The summary for refusal states: "The applicant has failed to undertake a sequential test* which is proportionate and appropriate for the given proposal as the submitted sequential test fails to consider the broad type and format of the proposed land use as set out in this application proposal.

"The proposal fails to satisfy the sequential test as there are sequentially preferable sites which are available and suitable within the town centre which could accommodate the broad type, format and scale of the proposed land use."

Other sites highlighted include the current Poundland unit in Queensway and a unit inside Westgate Shopping Centre.

In response, a TK Maxx spokesperson has said: "77 to 83 Queensway is currently let to Poundland whose lease has a number of years to run.  The unit is therefore simply not available. 

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"Neither the owners of Westgate nor officers in their report have identified any specific opportunity in the centre. Instead, they state that floor space configurations which have been offered to TK Maxx are confidential and have not been shared with the planning authority."

The spokesperson said opportunities discussed at Westgate were not suitable, on the grounds of units not being big enough, or requiring the loss or relocation of other stores.

They added: "Unfortunately, if the application is refused, TK Maxx will have no choice but to leave Stevenage altogether and focus their investment on other stores in the catchment area, such as Hatfield and Luton.

"In these increasingly uncertain economic times, when there is a real cost of living crisis, it makes no sense to force TK Maxx to leave Stevenage with the subsequent loss of many local jobs."

Peter Everest, managing partner of the owners of Westgate Shopping Centre, voiced concerns about the proposal in May. 

He said the arrival of Debenhams in the Roaring Meg - now the newly-opened Marks & Spencer - "unquestionably commenced a downward spiral of trade in the town centre," and that "with fewer key retailers in the town centre, the town is losing retail attraction".

Many have expressed support for the relocation plans. A decision is set to be made at a Planning and Development meeting on September 6. 

*comparing the site you're proposing to develop with other available sites.