PLANNING chiefs are set to decide whether to allow the owners of Tong Garden Centre to transform a former golf club into a £14m garden centre complex.

The company behind the popular Bradford centre wants permission to build a brand new garden centre and soft play area at the former Acanthus Golf Club off Thorpe Lane in Tingley, which planning papers claim could provide up to 250 jobs.

A document, written by Leeds City Council planning chiefs, recommended the site is approved in principle by councillors, while delegating the final decision to planning officers to negotiate payments to go towards local infrastructure.

Plans submitted to the council last year include a garden centre with a restaurant, landscaping and car parking spaces for 612 vehicles. Outdoor adventure play areas are also included, which the applicant claims can help “tackle childhood obesity”.

However, the document added that 13 local residents have made objections to the proposals, with some claiming the site sits opposite another garden centre, and that it could threaten local jobs.

Tong Garden Centre 'transforms' its food hall - here's what to expect

Responding to these concerns, the council planning document stated: “Competition between businesses is not a material consideration to be given weight in the assessment of this planning application. In any event, it should also be noted here that the scale and nature of the two businesses are also not comparable.

“The business model of the applicant’s seeks to move with the increasing trend to diversify and increase facilities on offer at garden centres and to make them a family experience. Traditionally, due to the nature of a garden centre, people make a one purpose trip just to buy plants and these trips are to places that are not likely to be within very sustainable local/town centre locations.”

Proposals include an enclosed garden centre shop, covered outdoor sales areas and an outdoor play area and soft play area.

The main garden centre building would also contain a customer restaurant along with kitchen facilities, staff facilities, toilets and storage space.

Documents also propose an area of indoor soft play, as well as an “additional adventure play area”, which it claims “will be very physically demanding in nature and will help children lead a more active lifestyle and help to tackle child obesity.”

The site, according to a design and access statement, was subject to two other planning applications for garden centres, in 1988 and 2016. As no work ultimately took place on the 2016 plans, however, permission has now expired.

The latest report by council officers concluded: “The proposal will ensure that a previously developed site is comprehensively re-developed in a way that will enhance the relationship of the site with the wider area, removing buildings and structures that are currently unsightly, and blending the building and associated works within the existing confines of the site.

“The proposed garden centre use cannot feasibly be accommodated within an urban setting and ultimately development such as this is often found in rural locations.

“The proposal cannot be considered to be appropriate development within the Green Belt, however, significant social, economic and environmental improvements have been considered above, and these are considered sufficient to provide very special circumstances that outweigh the harm to the Green Belt and any other harm.

“The application is considered acceptable and is recommended for approval subject to conditions and a Section 106 Agreement.”

Leeds City Council’s South and West Plans Panel will meet to discuss the planning application at a meeting on Thursday, April 29.