Outline plans for a £60 million Ikea store in Exeter have been approved by city councillors at a meeting held last night.
The move gives the green light for the Swedish retail giant to begin firming up its schedule for a move into the city, with the new store anticipated to create around 380 jobs – the equivalent of 256 full time posts.
Earlier this month, a briefing report drawn up by planning officers with information supplied by Ikea, revealed that the Exeter store is likely to divert around £14 million worth of trade from its Bristol outlet and ring up around £1 million a week in its tills.
Welcoming the planning outcome, Gillian Drakeford, country manager for IKEA UK & Ireland said: “We are delighted that Exeter City Council has supported our outline planning application. It recognises the significant contribution an Ikea store will bring to the local economy.”
A spokesperson for the retailer added that it was still too soon to confirm an opening date for the 28,000 sq metre store, with its focus now upon moving forward with the development of its in-depth plans for the site.
The recently-published planning report reveals, however, that the store will be turning over an annual £52 million by 2018 and pump almost £20 million into the local retail economy every year, by attracting shoppers from across the Westcountry into Exeter.
It is also claimed that the scale of the jobs created by the store could lead to a 20% reduction in the number of people looking for work in the city.
The development will be built at the edge of the city, close to Exeter Chief’s home ground, Sandy Park and also includes plans for up to 220 new homes.
While many local residents wrote to the council in support of the scheme, objections came from others concerned about the impact of tailbacks approaching the store on the A379.
The Highways Agency and Devon County Council said that upgrades to junction 30 of the M5 by April 2015, will help keep traffic flowing, while the Ikea plans were also amended ahead of their submission to increase the number of parking spaces – 1,004 space in total – to further prevent hold ups.
Following the approval by planners, Exeter city councillor Rachel Sutton said: “I think it is an exciting opportunity for the city. I know better than most the amount of time that has gone in. There are a number of reasonable concerns raised around the transport links but a lot raised have been addressed.”
The application may still have to be called in for examination by the Secretary of State, however, because it is a departure from plans adopted by the city council dating from 2005 which initially earmarked the Ikea site for a science park.
But planning officer Richard Short said that with the development of the city’s science park at Redhayes now under way, the Secretary of State was unlikely to intervene.
Ms Drakeford added: “We considered the various comments raised by local residents to ensure that our proposals met the needs of both Ikea and the surrounding community. We now look forward to submitting our final plans for approval.”