Court case looms as inspector rejects Iceland’s appeal over ‘flat and featureless’ Cromer shopfront
Iceland is set to be taken to court after a second planning inspector threw out its appeal against a notice to redesign its Cromer shopfront.
North Norfolk District Council is today expected to agree to begin legal action to force the superstore firm to abide by previous orders relating to its unlawful Church Street fascia.
Three years after developing the shopfront without permission, Iceland could finally face judgment day for what inspector John Bell-Williamson said caused 'unacceptable harm' to Cromer's conservation area.
Mr Bell-Williamson was the second inspector to rule against Iceland, after in February the firm appealed an NNDC decision to refuse a retrospective planning application.
A report to today's NNDC development committee says: 'While every effort has been made to guide the applicants towards producing an acceptable solution, it is clearly of concern that to date no acceptable proposals have been formally proposed.
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'The development committee has twice resolved to refuse replacement shopfront designs, and on both occasions the decision has been upheld by the planning inspectorate at appeal.
'The council therefore has no alternative other than to consider the further options open to it, including prosecution.'
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The application has divided opinion, with opponents including Cromer Preservation Society arguing that the designs are out of keeping with the town centre, and the council calling the designs 'flat and featureless'.
But supporters, and Iceland itself, argue that the design does not look out of place among some of the other shopfronts in the town, while suggesting that the previous shop, Woolworth, was not particularly attractive.
Mr Bell-Wilkinson, whose appeal findings are in the development committee papers, said: 'The appellant asserts that the frontage of the building's previous retail use did not make a positive contribution to the area's character and appearance.
'As concluded by the inspector in the earlier appeals, I consider that this is not a good reason for permitting a replacement shopfront that harms the conservation area.'
He said he took into account a poll on the North Norfolk News' website, www.northnorfolknews.co.uk, which found the majority of those taking part supporting the existing design. He also acknowledged that the building provided local employment and a good service.
But he added: 'None of these matter are sufficient to outweigh the harm that I have found with regard to the proposal's effects.'