Pakefield Tesco store controversy to rumble on with another meeting at Lowestoft Town Hall
Councillors are to be given yet another chance to try to stop Tesco going ahead with its controversial plans to open a new store in Pakefield.
On Tuesday night, Waveney District Council’s development control committee will once again be voting on the long-running saga about converting the Tramway Hotel in London Road into a Tesco Express store.
Next week’s meeting will be looking at a bid by the anti-Tesco campaigners to have the Tramway certified as a mixed use building comprising of a pub and hotel –meaning Tesco will have to submit a full planning application if it wants to go ahead with its plans.
However, the bid by Pakefield Opposing Tesco (POT) has been dealt a blow by Waveney as a planning report to be discussed on Tuesday says members of the development control committee should reject the campaign group’s certificate of lawful existing use application.
The report says that the committee should ignore the fact that there are rooms to let at the Tramway Hotel as they are only “ancillary” to the current A4 public house use.
The council officers’ opinion that the Tramway should just have A4 status, meaning Tesco does not need full planning permission, has led to the chairman of POT Bob Blizzard urging residents of Pakefield to attend Tuesday’s meeting so councillors can see how strong the feeling is against the proposed Tesco store.
Mr Blizzard, who has also organised POT protests outside Lowestoft Town Hall ahead of meetings, said: “We have submitted compelling evidence that the Tramway is what nearly everyone in Pakefield knows it to be – a hotel and pub. All this is backed up by a legal opinion from a top planning barrister.
We need another big turnout at the Town Hall to make sure the message hits home.
“Planning officers are clinging to an argument that the accommodation is only ancillary to the pub, but the figures show the hotel side is a viable business in its own right, not pin money on the side.
“Councillors on the planning committee now have another opportunity to re-state the view that a majority of them took previously. If they do so they will be in tune with the overwhelming majority of Pakefield residents who know the Tramway well.”
In April, the development control committee had gone against legal advice presented to the council and had voted in favour of the Tramway being designated as mixed use, even though councillors were told it could open the way for a legal challenge from Tesco.
The change of mixed use motion, which had been proposed by Gareth Douce, councillor for Kirkley, was then thrown out by a full council meeting at the end of April after a tight vote of 23-22 in favour of following the legal advice about the Tramway’s status.
Sonia Barker, councillor for Pakefield, had voiced her opposition to Tesco’s plan at previous meetings and intends to speak before the development control committee on Tuesday night.
She said: “This is such a really important issue for the Pakefield community. We want the proper planning decision made, that is the key thing point here.”
Normally a certificate of lawful existing use are decided by council planning officers under delegated powers, however Waveney planning papers say that “given the level of public interest in this premises and its recent planning history, the application has been referred to the council for determination”.
However in recommending the committee reject POT’s bid the report adds: “After consideration of all the evidence submitted in support of the application, it is officers’ opinion that the premises falls within the A4 public house use notwithstanding the fact that there is an ancillary element of the business that consists of letting the rooms on the first floor and specifically does not comprise a mixed use of A4 and C1 uses, or indeed a primary C1 hotel use.”
Tesco first unveiled its plans for the Tramway 21 months ago leading to concerns the store would adversely impact on nearby shops and cause traffic problems.
The long-running saga has seen a series of meetings at Waveney, two barristers provide legal advice on the pros and cons on the Tramway status, a petition collected with the names of 2,500 people opposed to the store and a successful bid last month by POT to get the Tramway Hotel listed as asset of community value, meaning it could be purchased by the community the building is put up for sale.
Tesco says the store would create 20 jobs and will benefit the local economy. The supermarket chain has already been given planning permission by the development control committee to carry out two extensions to the Tramway.
Pot is urging people to protest outside Lowestoft Town Hall from 5.30pm on Tuesday.