Dereham trader must put business case for warehouse retail sales

CC Wells warehouse on Greens Road Industrial Estate, Dereham. Picture: Ian Burt

CC Wells warehouse on Greens Road Industrial Estate, Dereham. Picture: Ian Burt - Credit: Ian Burt

A market trader will have to put together a business case for the sale of fruit and vegetables to the public from its warehouse in Dereham before planning permission can be approved.

This morning Breckland councillors went against officer recommendations to refuse a change of use to include retail from CC Wells's warehouse in Dereham, but deferred a final decision to allow the business to identify if any suitable town centre premises were available. If they can prove it would be financially unviable it would give the council reason to overlook national policy to protect the town centre.

CC Wells has found increasing support from the general public for sales of produce from the storage and wholesale warehouse on an industrial estate on the edge of town with many saying it was easier to park, there was good quality and selection and it meant they did not have to carry heavy items long distances through town to a car park.

The business had tried to legalise the retail aspect through a certificate of lawfulness but it was refused by Breckland Council in the summer.

A retrospective application for change of use from storage and wholesale to mixed including retail was recommended for refusal by Breckland's officers on grounds that the National Planning Policy Framework identifies retail as a main town centre use and the warehouse on Greens Road was in a general employment area. This was to ensure proposals do not 'undermine town centre vitality or pose a threat to existing employment enterprises'.

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But after lengthy debate Breckland planners voted six to five in favour of granting permission. They felt, however, that they did not have enough information from CC Wells as to their retail turnover to prove their case for keeping sales to the general public at the warehouse and not in a town centre premises.

Karen Whitehair, from CC Wells, told the planning meeting that retail would not be financially viable on its own either from the warehouse or from a town centre shop.

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'Our warehouse is on an estate where the majority of businesses are allowed public sales,' she said. 'It would be impossible in a town already dealing with major congestion issues.

'I think we have brought trade to town. We have been surprised and overwhelmed by the support from Dereham and surrounding areas.

Councillor Alison Webb said CC Wells had 'responded to public demand' and was promoting healthy eating.

But Tony Needham, clerk to Dereham town council, said they were against the proposal because it could lead to other applications for retail outside the town centre where rates were cheaper.

Simon Wood, Breckland business manager, said the policies were in place to protect the town centre and any retail sales on an industrial site could be allowed if limited to 10 percent or less of the area being put aside for them.

'This (CC Wells floorplan) significantly exceeds that,' he said.

Councillor Marion Chapman Allen said there were no other greengrocers in Dereham town centre so they were not affecting any other small businesses.

'We have given permission for another supermarket on the edge of town (Aldi) so if anything is taking business away from the town centre it will be that,' she said.

Councillor Paul Claussen said the only businesses able to afford town centre costs were charity shops.

And councillor Adrian Joel added: 'Why is there no greengrocer in Dereham? Because they can't afford to be there up against the supermarkets.'

After the meeting Karen Whitehair said they were disappointed that it was deferred but said they would be open for business in the interim and thanked everyone for their support.

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