New development in campaign to stop new Tesco store opening in Pakefield’s Tramway Hotel

PUBLISHED: 07:15 18 July 2014

Protesters outside lowestoft town hall ahead of a planning meeting about Tesco plans for the Tramway.

Protesters outside lowestoft town hall ahead of a planning meeting about Tesco plans for the Tramway.

Campaigners fighting Tesco’s plans to open a new store in Pakefield were given a major boost last night.

The supermarket giant is hoping to convert the Tramway Hotel in London Road into a Tesco Express – despite fierce local opposition.

But the Pakefield Opposing Tesco (POT) group has now succeeded in getting the Victorian building listed as an asset of community value (ACV) – potentially delaying any decision on its future.

The news is a welcome boost for the campaigners, who suffered a big setback in April when Waveney District Council ruled the Tramway was a only pub – thereby paving the way for Tesco to press ahead with its proposals without submitting a full “change-of-use” planning application.

POT then lodged an application with the council, under the Localism Act, in an effort to get the building listed as an ACV. And last night it learned its nomination had been accepted.

The ruling means the community will have the right to bid to buy The Tramway – if it is put up for sale. However, with its owner Enterprise Inns seemingly only planning to lease the building to Tesco, other hurdles will still have to be overcome before the long-running battle is won.

Welcoming the latest development, the secretary of POT, John Ward, said he felt “immense pride” at learning that the council had listed the Tramway Hotel as a community asset.

He said: “We believe this is the first asset of community value in the Waveney area – the first of its type in the district. The reason for submitting the application in the first place was to show the strength of feeling in the Pakefield community and to help save the Tramway. It keeps our vision alive.”

Mr Ward, who lives in Pakefield and has always described the Tramway Hotel as “my local,” said the ACV ruling was welcome news after 20 months of campaigning against Tesco’s plans.

“It shows the strength of community feeling, not just to keep Tesco out – it’s to save the Tramway, which has been a part of Pakefield for more than 110 years,” he added.

Ever since Tesco announced its plans in November 2012, people in Pakefield have campaigned against the company’s proposals to take over The Tramway, which was once the southern terminus of the Lowestoft tram network.

Tesco initially said it hoped to open the store – which would be its fourth in the Lowestoft area – “by summer 2013” but its plans have been delayed in the face of the fierce local protests, including two demonstrations outside council meetings at the town hall.

The campaigners say a new Tesco Express would have a detrimental impact on existing shops in the area and compound traffic problems in the area.

Under the Localism Act 2011, the government introduced new powers for communities in England to nominate valued facilities, such as pubs, as assets of community value – giving local people the right to make a bid if an owner puts one up for sale.

Now the Tramway is listed, campaigners will have up to six months to consider their options for saving the building if it is put up on the market.

Welcoming the development, Bob Blizzard, chairman of POT, said: “I think it’s a positive step forward. It recognises what we have been saying – that the Tramway Hotel is too important to the community to be turned into a shop we don’t need. But, the right to bid won’t kick in until we have seen off Tesco as Enterprise Inns are only planning to lease the building to them.”

Despite the good news, Mr Blizzard said POT was still pressing ahead with its separate bid to have The Tramway classified as a mixed use business trading as a pub and a hotel which, if approved by Waveney, would oblige Tesco to submit a full planning application.

He said POT was still waiting to hear when the matter would be considered by a meeting of Waveney’s development control committee.

“It’s still vital that people support our application for a certificate of lawful use,” he added. “People should continue to write to Waveney District Council’s planning department to support that application which, if successful, will force Tesco to put in a full change of use application.”

Waveney District Council has already informed Enterprise Inns PLC of its decision to list The Tramway as an asset of community value and warned the company that a six-month “moratorium period” will be triggered if it opts to sell the property.

When it announced its plans, Tesco said its proposed new store would create about 20 new full- and part-time jobs and provide more choice for shoppers in south Lowestoft.

Last night, a fund-raising quiz night was being held at The Tramway, as POT continues to raise funds for its campaign to save the building.

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