FEARS for the future of Richmondshire’s market towns are growing after plans to further expand a new town centre in Catterick Garrison were approved.

Richmondshire District Council planning committee on Tuesday (July 29) moved to permit Lingfield (Catterick) Limited to add an 870 square metre mezzanine level to a Sports Direct store in the development that already has an approved ground space of 929 square metres.

It was also hinted by chief planning officer Peter Featherstone that similar applications could come forward as the building work continues.

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But Richmond councillors warned that to allow an ever-increasing development would be tantamount to destroying small or independent shops in nearby towns such as Richmond and Leyburn.

Traders in Richmond have been voicing concerns about the lack of mitigation received ahead of the new competition, and have questioned why money was available for a town manager when Catterick Garrison Tesco was built – but not with the new town centre.

Councillor Stuart Parsons, who attended the meeting as a non-committee member, said: “We are very concerned in Richmond that as Mr Featherstone said there will be at least one other similar application coming up.

“Richmond and Leyburn both suffered from the Tesco effect - it had a strong impact on retail in both towns and now we could be looking at a 30 per cent hit on retail.

“We are supposed to be supporting our market towns, not destroying them.”

But Mr Featherstone said the garrison development would pull shoppers back into the district.

He said: “Tesco was a large convenience store, and the impact of that at Catterick Garrison on Richmond was very different to comparison floor space.

“Tesco did result in one of the smaller supermarkets in Richmond closing– that was accepted and by mitigation Tesco provided the funds for a town centre manager.

“When this scheme was initially brought to planning the economy was more buoyant that it is now, and the Ministry of Defence felt it could get a considerable return for the development – and part of that would have provided for a Richmond contribution.

“However it is now being built in very different circumstances. Trade in this area is being lost in huge amounts to Teesside and Darlington and people don’t shop for comparison goods in Richmond.

“This is not taking away from Richmond, it’s taking away from Teesside; but the applicants are installing a business and tourism information point as part of the scheme.”