PROGRESS always marches on, but is it right for the planning system to hold it in check?

Having won planning permission for a large designer outlet at Scotch Corner five years ago, developers are now returning and asking for permission to build the country’s largest garden centre across more green fields.

At 10,761 square metres, it will dwarf the Wembley football pitch which is 7,140 square metres.

It will be brilliant. It will, as the developers say, “surprise and delight” visitors. It will create 180 jobs.

But how will it help the neighbouring town centres, from Richmond to Darlington; how will it assist the existing garden centres from Ravensworth to Northallerton?

It can’t possibly be beneficial to them.

Through the Towns Fund, the Government is pouring money into our high streets to try and keep them alive as they fight the internet for a future. How will this development help that Government priority, or will more Government money be needed once shoppers are sucked out to Scotch Corner.

And, for Richmond, it is bigger than just retail: who will want to stay in the town, however pretty, if all the shops are boarded up. How many jobs will be lost as a consequence of creating those 80?

Supermarkets, which we all love and use, destroyed the town centre as it once was; Scotch Corner will drive in another nail – but we will all drive out and enjoy the free parking and glittering array of consumables.

Will the planners, then, be big, brave and strong enough to save us from ourselves?