CONTROVERSIAL plans for a huge new retail and leisure complex at St George's Park, Newport, have been approved — despite impassioned pleas for the application to be thrown out and the resignation of one councillor.

The development, which had been recommended for approval by planning officers, was given the green light at tonight's (Tuesday) meeting of the Isle of Wight Council's planning committee.

Five members voted in favour of the plans, two voted against and two abstained.

Read more: Retail complex at St George's Park in Newport — with McDonald's drive-through, Aldi and Wickes — recommended for approval by Isle of Wight Council officers

Ward councillor for Newport Central, Cllr Julie Jones-Evans, was one of those who spoke against the out-of-town retail park. By approving it, she said the council had shown it did not care about the high street.

She said: "This is an abomination, it is against our regeneration policy. Our high streets are dying. We want to regenerate our town centre.

"I dispute the findings totally. We need to put the heart and life and soul back into Newport."

Following the vote, Cllr Jones-Evans resigned from the planning committee.

Big names rumoured for the development, submitted by South Coast Leisure (SCL) in November, 2018, include a McDonald's drive-through restaurant, Aldi and Wickes, with 289 parking spaces.

SCL said the scheme would create 200 jobs.

Read more: Isle of Wight development could create 200 jobs and an Aldi and Wickes DIY

Newport and Carisbrooke Parish Council, which has strongly objected to the retail park, said it would be 'detrimental to the viability' of Newport High Street.

A representative from Asda, which has a store next to the site, said the supermarket was not afraid of competition but argued the plans presented to the committee were 'fundamentally different' from those originally submitted.

Planning team leader at the council, Sarah Wilkinson, dismissed claims the new retail complex would have a significant impact on the town centre. She said impact assessments had been carried out, showing it would only have a four per cent impact.

Cllr Shirley Smart, representative of Newport South, argued against the need for the development. She said: "If we agree this tonight, how much more will go from Newport High Street?"

Cllr Geoff Brodie, local ward councillor for Newport East, said the development would damage the town centre and wanted to limit the times of building works.

He said: "A safe, lit footway along Pan Lane must be in place before any work happens on the site.

"The football club has been moved from their home and I ask that the new stadium is built and ready for use before the building work starts."

The football ground, home to Newport FC, will be demolished to make way for the development, and the club relocated to a new stadium — sponsored by WightFibre and called WightFibre Park. The new ground will be built on land off the Racecourse roundabout in Whippingham.

Read more: Proposed new football stadium to be sponsored by WightFibre

Cllr Matthew Price, ward councillor Newport North, said he 'didn't know where to start' when talking about the development. He highlighted the need for Newport FC to have a home but ultimately abstained from the vote.

He said: "The danger with this is talking about the relationship with the developer. I believe we want SCL to do this. Let's say the site was sold, we need to make sure all of that is water tight at this point.

"We have enough building sites on this Island, we must make sure this does not happen with the site. It is an eyesore, a blight to those coming into Newport."

More than 28 conditions have been attached to the planning permission. They include a condition that the three retail warehouses only sell certain types of products — one with a garden centre cannot sell clothes and shoes, for example, and the others cannot sell food. 

Building work will have to start within three years.

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