Birmingham has been hit by an outbreak of store wars, with House of Fraser lodging a formal objection to John Lewis’s plan to open in the city.
The city council has been warned it will breach its own planning policies if a £100 million John Lewis department store at the New Street Station Gateway scheme goes ahead.
According to House of Fraser, which has a landmark outlet in Corporation Street, the city’s Core Strategy development plan states that future major retail development in Birmingham will be confined to the Bull Ring area and Martineau Galleries in the north-east of the city centre.
The policy envisages that land around New Street Station will be reserved for mixed-use development or niche retail.
House of Fraser wants the city planning committee to delay a decision on John Lewis’s application until the Core Strategy is tested at a public inquiry next year.
In a letter to the planners, the store says: “The principal shopping streets in Birmingham are High Street, New Street and Corporation Street, which are anchored by Martineau Place, House of Fraser and the Bull Ring/Pallasades. The proposed development store will be a new destination to the south of the existing retail core and will detract from the retail circuit.”
The objection is the latest hiccup threatening to delay the John Lewis proposal.
The city council is involved in a High Court legal battle with retailers Argos, which is fighting to stop its store at the Pallasades shopping centre from being compulsorily purchased and demolished to make way for John Lewis.
Lawyers for Argos claim designs for New Street Gateway have changed dramatically since 2007, when the retailer was told it would be able to carry on trading from its current site with minimum disruption as two new tower blocks were built.
But the tower blocks proposal disappeared two years ago when the property market collapsed, to be replaced by a major department store.
The John Lewis application is expected to be considered by the planning committee next Thursday.
Planning officer David Wells is recommending approval.
He said the Core Strategy development plan, although relevant, has “little weight” because it is in draft form.
Mr Wells added: “Whilst I note the objections of Argos and House of Fraser, I am of the view that the proposal is consistent with the overall approach set out in the Development Plan.”
Reports before the committee reveal that the four-storey 250,000 sq ft John Lewis store will create an additional 127 jobs.
When announcing the store’s decision to come to Birmingham, the city council said John Lewis would create 650 jobs at its store.
But when the effect of jobs lost through demolishing eight stores in the Pallasades is taken into account, the net number of new jobs falls to 127.