A MULTI-million pound scheme to redevelop Hale Barns' shopping centre hinges on the outcome of a public inquiry that was held in Altrincham this week.
Property company Development Securities' plans for a £30m revamp of the Square shopping centre have been held up for two years because three businesses have refused to move out.
The three traders - Hale Barns Post Office, Admiral Fish and Chips and Hale Barns Tandoori - claim they are standing firm to protect their livelihoods and the interests of their customers.
On Tuesday, a public inquiry was held at Altrincham Town Hall, followed by a site visit by planning inspector Mel Middleton the following day, to decide whether to grant compulsory purchase orders for the three businesses.
Development Securities – which is being supported by Trafford council - claims it needs vacant possession in order to demolish the 1960s centre and build a new shopping mall. The planned centre includes a new Booths supermarket and café, space for five to 10 shops, 24 flats and 200 car parking spaces split over two levels.
Senior regeneration officer at Trafford Council, Clare Taylor-Russell, told the inquiry the planned centre would help to regenerate the area.
“It will play a vital role in reversing the decline of the centre. I believe there is a compelling case to grant the order.”
But the traders claimed the centre had been allowed to decline to pave the way for the development.
Sub postmaster at Hale Barns Post Office, Dhiresh Makdani, said he had been unable to find any suitable alternative premises in the area.
He said his post office is a ‘lifeline’ for his customers, and 2,000 of them signed a petition a couple of years ago calling for the facility to be saved. Despite this, he claimed the council has failed to deliver on promises to help retain the post office.
He said: “The post office provides a vital service to the community, including pensioners. It has always been the focal point of the village.”
Savas Panayiotou, from Admiral fish and chip shop, said: “We find ourselves at a big disadvantage having to stand up against the council and a multi-million pound business.
“It feels like a battle between David and Goliath.”
Counsel for Trafford Council, Hugh Richards, claimed e-mail evidence of meetings between agents for the traders and the council showed the issue for the protesting businesses was not about relocating, but simply the amount of compensation they could get.
The scheme to redevelop the Square was approved by Trafford's planning committee in March 2011, after development plans for the Square had moved back and forth through the planning process for five years.
in 2008, a much larger scheme was finally approved despite a high profile campaign by the Hale Barns Residents Response group to block it.
But this scheme was shelved after anchor store Waitrose pulled out in favour of opening a store in Broadheath.
A decision on the compulsory purchase orders is expected within two to three months.