A DISCOUNT retailer could bring up to 25 new jobs to Ashbourne if a variation to planning permission is agreed.
99p Stores is currently in discussions with landlord at Waterside Park, the Co-Operative Group and Derbyshire Dales District Council with a view to setting up shop in the town.
The discount retailer, which has more than 140 stores across the UK, may fill the last available unit at Waterside Park, which has remained empty since the park opened in 2008.
The business was founded by London entrepreneur Nadir Lalani in 2001 and offers more than 3,000 items at less than £1.
In an independent retail assessment commissioned by The Co-Operative Group, it is revealed that an offer for the last unit at Waterside Park was made by Poundstretcher in 2011, which was declined in hopes of attracting another major brand to the park.
National retail chain Next also inspected the property in 2011, but decided against moving into the town because of Ashbourne’s proximity to Derby.
Now, an application to change the planning permission at Waterside Park which restricts sales to bulky goods only, has been made which would allow 99p Stores to trade from Unit A2 which is next to Homebase.
Variations to planning permission at the park have been made in the past to allow stores such as M&S Simply Food and Majestic Wines to trade there.
Spokesman for Ashbourne Trader’s Group, Paul Taylor, said: “Traders in the town centre do not mind competing with other businesses in Ashbourne on a level playing field.
“However, businesses operating on the Waterside Business Park are not competing on a level playing field.
“The Waterside Retail Park has easy access for both customers and deliveries and free parking, neither of which can be said for traders in the town.
“There is also concern that in order to let the units the owners are offering extended rent-free periods and “out of town” developments qualify for a reduced rate of National Non Domestic Rates (NNDR) compared to those within the town centre, giving them a significant advantage in terms of overheads.
“There is also a view that a 99P Store is not the ‘right sort of business’ to be associated with a town like Ashbourne.
“Indeed, the Ashbourne Town Survey run by your paper showed that many local residents favour the establishment of a cinema or similar recreational business on the retail park rather than another high street retailer.
“If some sort of recreational business opened on Waterside this would provide something for visitors to Ashbourne to do as well as possibly bringing some further footfall into the town centre.
“There are already a few empty shop units within Ashbourne Town Centre and there is concern that if the Waterside Park is expanded its ease of access and free parking will adversely affect footfall within the town.
“This would result in a reduction in trade within the town centre and that would be the start of an inevitable downward spiral for businesses trading in the town.”
In the report commissioned by The Co-Operative Group, it is stated that some low-rent or rent-free periods had been offered to various retailers and businesses in order to attract them into Ashbourne, but such enticements had failed except in the case of discount retailers.
The creators of the report, Quod, had also conducted a survey of more than 300 shoppers at Waterside Retail Park in October. Only one per cent of respondents said they would like to see a cinema or bowling at the park, with 17.7 per cent agreeing the retailers they would most like to see there would be Argos or Next. Of those questioned, 45.2 per cent rated Ashbourne town centre as good for shopping and only 11.8 per cent said they never combined a trip to Waterside Park with a trip to the town centre.