The McArthurGlen shopping village finally began welcoming customers last month after the coronavirus pandemic and national lockdown restrictions delayed its opening.
But not all visitors to the area have been there to bag a bargain. A bird hide in the nearby nature reserve has recently been vandalised, Cannock Chase Council’s planning committee heard , and there are concerns that intruders could gain access to the Cannock outlet out of hours by jumping down from the Chase Heritage Trail section that passes the site via a raised bridge.
Permission has now been sought to close a section of the Chase Heritage Trail between two gates at the outlet between 9pm and 5am each day.
A supporting letter submitted on behalf of Cannock Designer Outlet (GP) Limited to the council said: “It is the concern of our client that if the central section is not secured through the installation of two locked gates when the outlet is closed, the area would be open to antisocial behaviour and vandalism.
“The bird hide has already been vandalised and our client wants to try and limit other opportunities throughout the outlet and immediate area with this, including the children’s playground which has been constructed at significant cost.
“It is only proposed to restrict access when the outlet is closed and appropriate signage will notify walkers who would otherwise be intending to use this section of the trail.
“The gates are required to stop antisocial behaviour and trespassing into the development and the police support the installation as a crime prevention tactic.”
The closure request divided opinion among planning committee members. Nine councillors voted in favour but six were against the plans, including Councillor Andrea Muckley who questioned why alternative measures were not being considered to boost security.
She said: “Can’t we have any additional CCTV rather than taking away people’s rights to walk along the heritage trail? Within weeks of the designer outlet opening we’re closing it.
"I think it is fundamentally wrong to close a heritage trail because of something we didn’t think about when the council gave planning permission, because we failed to see this was an issue.
“If it is to stop bird hides being vandalised what next – closing the whole nature reserve? What are we achieving here? I’m not convinced this is a good reason for this application to have been put forward and I am not convinced it will stop what the report is proposing.”
Councillor Andrea Layton said: “It seems an extreme thing to close a section of the heritage trail along there. I wondered if any alternative methods had been thought of.”
The meeting was told that it was difficult to identify perpetrators from night time CCTV footage however. And there are two alternative routes that can be used by the public when the path section between the two gates is closed off overnight.
Councillor Alan Pearson said: “CCTV doesn’t stop crime – CCTV only helps the culprits to be caught.
“There are two other walks very close to this trail where people can access it.
“If this stops them coming into the designer village out of hours we should support this. When it is closed there is more chance of antisocial behaviour.”
Councillor Doug Smith said that fencing around the area was discussed when planning permission was granted for the outlet.
He added: “It was felt the fencing should be low and less intrusive to not detract from the walkway.
“It is a sorry state of affairs when the best has been done, then by people’s selfish actions they’re putting this in jeopardy. As far as I’m aware the outlet is covered by CCTV – that’s how they know people have been in there.”