By MARK BOGGIS
Friday, November 23, 2012
Calls were made this week for a public referendum to be held over Tesco’s plans to open a fourth store in the Lowestoft area as hundreds of people demonstrate their opposition to the move.
Campaigners have now collected 1,500 names on a petition against the supermarket giant’s controversial proposals to open a new Tesco Express at the historic Tramway Hotel in London Road, Pakefield.
But this week, as more concerns were voiced about the store’s potential impact on existing shops and businesses, the company made its first step towards seeking planning permission.
Tesco announced three weeks ago that it had secured the lease on the hotel, which stands at the southern terminus of the town’s former tram line, and that it proposed to convert it into a new store.
This week, it submitted an application to Waveney District Council, seeking permission for the “construction of two single storey rear extensions” at The Tramway, which remains open for business.
A council spokesman confirmed yesterday that it had received the application – its first official notification of its plans for the site. The application seeks planning consent to extend the building and says “the proposed works are associated with the permitted retail use to create a store that Tesco can operate from”.
Meanwhile campaigners have been mobilising their opposition to the company’s proposals.
Speaking on behalf of Waveney’s Pakefield councillors, Sonia Barker, deputy Labour group leader, said: “It is vital the whole process is fair and transparent and to this end we are seeking advice on holding a Local Referendum (as allowed under the Localism Act 2011) to ascertain the views of Pakefield residents on this vital matter.”
With more than 1,500 people having signed the petition opposing the plans, objectors are also being urged to attend a public meeting at 11am on Saturday, December 1, organised by local residents.
Hilary Lepine, who lives in Florence Road, said: “We’ve set up a small group to co-ordinate itself now that the planning application has been submitted and ahead of the standard consultation period.
“We’ve organised the public meeting at the Seagull Theatre in Pakefield, facilitated by Bob Blizzard, with the purpose of making everyone aware of what’s going on and encouraging everyone to write letters of objection to the planning department... We hope the meeting will be successful and we can achieve our objectives as there’s a wealth of very strong feeling against the plans.”
After being contacted by people and businesses in Pakefield over the potential impact of the new store, Waveney MP Peter Aldous has also become involved. He said he had raised “various concerns” with Waveney’s planning department, asking it to consider whether the The Tramway was currently being used as a hotel rather than a pub.
This could have a major bearing on the final decision on Tesco’s application as the planning restrictions governing the proposed conversion of hotels are more stringent than those applying to pubs.
“While this is a decision for Waveney District Council I strongly believe the voice of local residents and businesses must be heard and a full planning application should be submitted by Tesco to allow this,” Mr Aldous said.
Labour’s prospective parliamentary candidate for Waveney, Bob Blizzard, has asked Waveney to insist that Tesco submits a planning application if it wishes to change the use of The Tramway to a foodstore.
Mr Blizzard said: “People definitely want to have a say on this matter and a planning application is the only way they can make their voice count. It would be wrong of the council to deny people this opportunity.”
Paul Hobbs, chairman of the Promoting Pakefield Group, said: “If people want to see a proper and considered approach to the proposed development by Tesco, please write or email Waveney’s planning office asking them to recognise that the building is named and designated as a hotel and that, accordingly, it requires a proper planning procedure to be redeveloped, allowing the formation of a neighbourhood planning referendum.”
Yesterday, David Ritchie, Waveney’s cabinet member for planning said: “We are aware of the concerns that the plans for this public house are causing and it would be fair to say that, as a council, we share those concerns. We are of course, as always, bound by planning law and we must be cautious about what can realistically be achieved. “However, this is a matter we are discussing as a priority and we are closely examining the options that are open, both to us and to the numerous correspondents who have expressed their opinions about the proposals.”
● Postbox – page 20
What do you think?