Village store plans which more than 1,000 people oppose are approved

Shipdham resident Geoff Hinchliffe, who spoke in opposition to the proposals. Picture; Matthew Ushe

Shipdham resident Geoff Hinchliffe, who spoke in opposition to the proposals. Picture; Matthew Usher. - Credit: Matthew Usher

Residents fear for the future of their village post office after councillors approved plans to build a new convenience store which more than 1,000 people opposed through a petition.

Members of the public could be heard saying 'shameful' and 'a disgrace' after Breckland Council's planning committee voted to approve the scheme at Shipdham, near Dereham, on Monday.

Nine councillors voted in favour and four were against the plans.

The development is planned for the northern side of the village, near the centre of Shipdham and involves the demolition of the former Wagon and Horses pub and the building of new flats.

A petition containing more than 1,000 signatures, opposing the scheme, was sent to Breckland Council and more than 200 separate representations were submitted by objectors.

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More than 60 people wrote to the council in favour of the scheme.

The main concerns centre around the impact the convenience store could have on the village post office.

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Speaking at the meeting, Shipdham resident Geoff Hinchliffe argued that the plans went against Breckland Council's own policies and the National Policy Planning Framework, a claim which was challenged.

He said: 'Neither the post office nor the accompanying store is viable in its own right. Anything which threatens the store, threatens both.

'Many residents of Shipdham and its adjacent villages, particularly those without personal transport, depend on the post office for their pensions, benefits, children's allowances and over-the-counter banking.'

The plans were recommended for approval by the council's planning officer Matt Ellis. Shipdham Parish Council opposed the building of a convenience store.

Those supporting the development argue that it would tidy up an eyesore site, support existing businesses and give shoppers more choice.

Councillors were told the issue of competition cannot be taken into account in decision-making as it is not a material consideration in planning law.

After the meeting, Shipdham postmaster Lax Purewal said: 'I am concerned for the future of the post office. We will have to see what happens. I'm in shock at the decision. The people of Shipdham have not been able to have a voice in this.'

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