By Anthony Carroll
Friday, March 28, 2014
People in Pakefield are being urged to attend a protest next week ahead of a crunch meeting that will decide the fate of plans by Tesco to open its fourth store in the Lowestoft area.
On Wednesday evening, the supermarket chain’s controversial application to carry out two extensions at the Tramway Hotel in London Road to create a new Tesco Express store will be voted on by an extraordinary meeting of Waveney’s development control committee – with members being advised to approve the scheme.
But campaigners are hoping for a big turn-out – in the hope that councillors will reject the company’s proposals.
Ever since Tesco unveiled its plans in November 2012, there has been fierce opposition in Pakefield, amid concerns over the loss of a pub and fears that the new store could hit existing shops’ trade and cause traffic problems.
Next week’s meeting follows one in January when councillors deferred making a decision on the extensions.
Members had raised concerns about traffic, the impact on other traders and independent legal advice over Tesco’s need for change of use planning permission for the Victorian building.
In January, about 100 people demonstrated outside Lowestoft Town Hall in a protest organised by the campaign group Pakefield Opposed to Tesco (POT), and a similar protest is being called for ahead of Wednesday’s meeting to make councillors fully aware of the strength of feeling about Tesco’s plans.
Bob Blizzard, chairman of POT, said: “This is about a local community standing up for itself.
“Pakefield people have made it abundantly clear that they don’t want the iconic Tramway Hotel turned into a shop we don’t need, and they dislike the way Tesco are claiming they don’t need planning permission.
“I’m sure there will be a huge turnout on Wednesday to give this message to the council. I hope the committee listens.”
In a report to be discussed by the committee, council planning officers recommend that Tesco’s application to extend the Tramway be approved – even though there have been 225 objections and a petition submitted with about 2,500 names.
The report says that highways officers at Suffolk County Council “do not foresee that the proposed use of the premises as a convenience shop, including the extensions, would give rise to additional significant highway hazards in the vicinity”.
The papers also include updated independent legal advice from barrister Josef Cannon, of London-based Cornerstone Barristers, which says he stands by his firm view that the Tramway Hotel is a pub and not a “mixed use” of pub and hotel – meaning Tesco does not need a full change of use planning application to turn it into a store.
In recommending approval, the report says: “The two extensions are considered to be acceptable in their appearance and character. The change of use of the premises does not require planning permission and, therefore, the associated issues cannot be taken in to account.”
A Tesco spokesman said: “We are really excited about the chance to serve the local community in Pakefield and we think an Express store would be popular with customers as it would offer a wide range of products in a convenient location and create about 20 jobs for local people.
“We know from experience that our stores give shoppers another reason to stay and shop locally rather than driving elsewhere and in many cases help other local businesses grow.
“We are looking forward to the committee next week.”
■ Wednesday’s meeting starts at 6pm, with the protest due to get under way from 5.30pm.