Dramatic twist over Tesco store plan for Lowestoft deals blow to Pakefield residents

The Tramway Hotel on London Road, Pakefield

The Tramway Hotel on London Road, Pakefield

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The controversy over plans for a new Tesco store in Pakefield took a dramatic twist yesterday when a senior council officer concluded a decision to halt the company’s proposals should be quashed.

Two weeks ago, there were jubilant scenes at Lowestoft Town Hall when members of Waveney District Council’s development control committee chose to ignore legal advice and planning guidance by ruling that the Tramway Hotel in Pakefield was a mixed use business and not simply a pub.

The decision dealt a blow to the supermarket giant’s moves to convert the building in London Road into a new Tesco Express store without first submitting a full planning application.

But, in what has been described as “sticking two fingers up to the residents of Pakefield”, Waveney’s monitoring officer Arthur Charvonia has now recommended that the councillors’ decision should be overturned.

In a report to be discussed by a full council meeting on Wednesday, Mr Charvonia points out that the committee ignored the advice from a barrister who said the Tramway was only a pub – and warnings by Waveney’s head of planning Philip Ridley that doing so could be deemed unlawful.

If the committee’s motion is overturned next week, it would pave the way for Tesco to go ahead with its plans to convert the Tramway into a store, having already won approval to extend the building. The report to Wednesday’s full council meeting also includes fresh advice from barrister Josef Cannon, who says Tesco would be likely to win an appeal against the decision to classify the Tramway as “mixed use”.

Last night, the development prompted calls by anti-Tesco campaigners for people to take part in a third protest outside Lowestoft Town in a bid to persuade councillors to stand by the committee’s decision.

Bob Blizzard, chairman of Pakefield Opposed to Tesco, said: “If the council decide to quash the decision it will completely let down the people of Pakefield. It will be like sticking two fingers up to residents if the decision is reversed. It really is a shocking recommendation.

“I would urge anyone in Pakefield who does not want the Tesco to turn up before the meeting and show councillors how strong the feeling is in the community about the plans.”

At the meeting of Waveney’s development control committee two weeks ago, councillors went against the advice of Mr Ridley and independent legal advice from Mr Cannon that concluded the Tramway was a pub and that therefore, under the Town and Country Planning (General Permitted Development Order) 1995, Tesco did not need to apply for full planning permission to convert into a store.

But members backed a motion proposed by Gareth Douce, Labour councillor for Kirkley ward, which said the Victorian building should “be recorded as mixed A4 and appropriate class C use”.

Last night, Mr Douce said the Waveney Labour group was seeking its own legal advice from the Association of Labour Councillors which could be used at Wednesday’s full council meeting. He said: “This is a sensitive and constitutional issue. What we want is the best for the residents of Pakefield and Waveney.”

In his new report to the council, Mr Cannon says he sticks by his original independent advice that the Tramway was just a pub and goes on to examine the successful motion proposed by Mr Douce.

Mr Cannon states: “In my view that motion was an unwise one and leaves the council in a vulnerable position. It is my view that any attempt to rely upon the motion in support of a decision in future in respect of the site would be likely to meet a successful challenge. The motion was not on the agenda, was not supported by any evidence or report and was contrary to disclosed legal advice.

“It that context I consider it to be a motion (and resolution) which puts in a vulnerable position.”

After considering Mr Cannon’s report, Mr Charvonia concludes in his recommendation to the full council “that the decision of the extraordinary development control committee, made on 2 April 2014 – that the Tramway Hotel be recorded as mixed A4 and the appropriate C class use – be quashed.”

Tesco unveiled its plans for the Tramway 17 months ago – prompting fears among residents that the new store would cause traffic problems and hit the trade of nearby shops.

More than 220 letters of objections and a 2,500-name petition have also be sent into the council opposing Tesco’s plans.

Tesco, which already has three stores in the Lowestoft area, says its new store would create 20 jobs and benefit Pakefield.

Wednesday’s meeting takes place at Lowestoft Town Hall at 6.30pm.

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