The boss of a thriving York business said he needs to “reassess” the company’s relationship with the city after councillors rejected their plan to extend a warehouse further into the green belt.
Stuart Paver, joint managing director of shoe firm Pavers, said the “desperately needed” expansion, along with a separate extension for new office space, represented a £19m investment and would bring 130 new jobs to the city.
Recent growth has seen Pavers’ retail portfolio grow to more than 180 stores and boosted online sales by 700 per cent in the last three years.
The company currently relies on additional off-site warehousing – and storage requirements are expected to double over the next five years.
Pavers argued that additional warehouse facilities are essential at Northminster Business Park in Upper Poppleton for business efficiency.
Mr Paver said: “As a York-based family business we are proud of our association with York and how we’ve managed to grow from a £200 loan my mother took out in the 1970s to the company we are today, but we need to keep growing .”
The company currently sells five million pairs of shoes a year, but the extension would allow them to sell 16-18 million, Mr Paver said.
He added: “We really want to continue to build our business and relationships within York. We don’t want to become one of the long list of successful companies that have had to find another home.”
‘Sold a story on jobs’
The site is considered part of the green belt in York’s emerging Local Plan, and Cllr Nigel Ayre questioned why the company hadn’t made representations earlier in the plan process as to why it should be considered employment land.
The “sword of Damocles”’ was being held over councillors’ heads, Cllr Ayre said.
He added: “We’ve been sold a story on job growth. There is no evidence that I’ve seen from what’s been put before us that job growth wouldn’t happen necessarily if this site wasn’t approved and an alternate site had to be chosen.”
Cllr Tony Fisher added: “They say ‘we’ll leave the city and go to Gloucester or Worcester’, but the cost of relocating is going to be significantly more than just moving 100m down the road and building a new warehouse there.”
Cllr Andy D’Agorne said Northminster Business Park has been continually expanding into the green belt and said approving an extension could set “a dangerous precedent”.
But Cllr Janet Looker praised Pavers for wanting to stay in York and said growing businesses were too often forced to leave.
“Retention of businesses is one of the biggest challenges York has,” she said.
‘It’s a field of spuds’
Cllr Michael Pavlovic added: “This application is half a field. It’s a field of spuds and we as a city are saying to many people ‘York is welcoming to business, York wants to encourage well paid jobs’.
“For 200 metres – as opposed to 130 well-paid jobs – we’re saying that half a field is more important. I can’t agree to that.”
After councillors voted to reject the warehouse extension, Pavers withdrew a separate application for its office extension as they said one could not happen without the other.
Mr Paver told councillors: “We need to reassess what our future is with York.
“It will undoubtedly be a much smaller application going forward so the loss to York will be quite significant – we’re not just joking.”
Committee chairman Coun Chris Cullwick said: “We do value Pavers as a fantastic success story and I think it’s unfortunate the company didn’t engage with the process around the Local Plan at a much earlier stage.”