By MARK BOGGIS
Friday, December 7, 2012
Campaigners opposed to plans to open a fourth Tesco store in the Lowestoft area were given a major boost today after Waveney District Council revealed the supermarket giant will have to submit a full-scale planning application.
Waveney planning officers inspected the Tramway Hotel in Pakefield yesterday (Thursday) following an application from the supermarket giant to extend the historic building into a Tesco Express store - and the council has since ruled that Tesco must now opt for a change of use bid.
A council spokesman said: “Yesterday, (December 6) in relation to proposals by Tesco, planning officers from Waveney District Council completed preliminary investigations regarding the Tramway Hotel Public House in Pakefield.
“Officers were able to meet with the landlord of the premises, enter the property and, for the first time, view the various floors. This visit and tour has enabled the council to consider the nature of The Tramways’ business and use. It also means that officers have now - again for the first time - been able to make a thorough assessment of the whole premises; an assessment which has practical implications for the proposals by Tesco.
“The ground floor is laid out as a pub and there is no evidence of ‘hotel’ features, such as a reception desk. The first floor is, however, laid out with six rooms which take reservations and we have now established that there is a dual management arrangement for the premises,” the spokesman added.
“Therefore, while the premises in their entirety cannot be considered a ‘hotel’ as such, Waveney District Council planning officers believe that their investigations indicate a premises with mixed use of public house and hotel facilities. This would therefore take the premises out of the ‘A4 use’ class and it suggests that a change from its current use to retail would require a planning application.”
The EDP has previously reported on Tesco’s bid to convert the Tramway Hotel into an Express store, which has prompted widespread anger and more than 1,500 signatures on petitions opposing their plans.
After more than 150 people turned out for a public meeting to voice their opposition to the plans at the weekend, at 12.30pm today (Friday) a demonstration is to be held outside the council’s Marina Centre as the campaign against the bid continues.
The council spokesman added: “It is worth pointing out, as part of the council’s ongoing inquiries, that the agent for Tesco was contacted last week and asked to explain their position - namely that a planning application for a change of use was not required. As of today’s date, the council has yet to receive a response from Tesco.
“However, following the completion of preliminary inquiries, as detailed previously, the council has now written to Tesco, inviting them to submit a planning application for a change of use, or, to submit evidence explaining why they consider the premises not to be of mixed use, in planning terms,” the spokesman added.
“Finally, the council is very aware of the great interest and debate that this issue has provoked. It has clearly generated strong feelings among local residents. However the priority for planning officers during the past fortnight has been to carefully consider and reach an appropriate decision as laid down by planning law.
“Officers have sought, professionally and dispassionately, over the course of many days, to establish important facts about these premises. It is their legal duty to ensure that all interested parties are treated equally and fairly in law with an awareness of the implications for Waveney’s council tax payers, should any errors lead to costly legal challenge.
“Equally, interested parties should be mindful that this latest development may not ultimately affect the eventual outcome,” the council spokesman added. “However, should a planning application for change of use now be received, and subsequently come to the Development Control Committee, it will be heard in public. This would allow the applicant and objectors to make representations and a decision would then be made with due regard to national planning laws and regulations.”