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Co-op clears major hurdle ahead of new store decision

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A new supermarket proposed for a Cambridgeshire village has overcome a significant hurdle after satisfying the county council highways department on access off the A605.

Fenland District Council has told Lincolnshire Co-op that once an ecology issue has been resolved, the application can go before its planning committee – possibly in August.

Shane Luck, principal highway development management engineer, told the council: “I can confirm I do not object to the application.”

Lincolnshire Co-op, who hope to build their latest store in Coates near Whittlesey, has overcome issues regarding parking, turning, loading, and unloading and made sure these movements stay clear of the main road.

Kim Crow, development officer for Fenland Council, told the Co-op agents last week that “we previously agreed an extension to allow this item to be heard at June committee.

“However, it is unlikely that this application will be able to be heard given that we are still awaiting confirmation from ecology as to whether the assessment can be conditioned and agenda dispatch for the June committee is early next week.

“The July committee will be held on the 26th and therefore I would suggest we agree an extension until the 04/08/2023 to allow for the application to be heard.”

She had previously declined to offer an opinion on what officers’ recommendation might.

“Also, given the number of objections received, this application will be required to be heard at planning committee,” wrote.

The shop is proposed for a site that has been derelict for 13 years; it met surprising opposition to it being used for a new Co-op convenience store.

Of the 100 comments on the planning portal of Fenland District Council where the application can be viewed, the vast majority of the 60 or so residents’ views oppose the store.

Up until 2010 the site had been the location of the family-owned business Anker of Coates, a John Deere dealership, which relocated to the outskirts of Coates; the site has remained vacant.

Lincolnshire Co-op, which in recent years has opened a similar store in Whittlesey itself, wants to build a ‘top-up’ shopping store for local residents “rather than a destination type shopping centre” it says in its application.

“The size of the convenience store is sustainable within the local community and does not depend on a wider catchment area for its sustainability”.

The proposed store provides approximately 382m² of retail space at ground floor which includes 280m² sales area, 102m² back of house.

The Co-op says their store “enhances the site and general environment of the area”.

But that is not how many villagers see it.

“This is a threat for the village post office shop,” says one resident.

“March road is already very busy road, and this will increase more traffics; the Co-op would be on a blind bend and very dangerous access”.

Site of a proposed new Co-op for Coates near Whittlesey

Site of a proposed new Co-op for Coates near Whittlesey

Another says: “The post office is the lifeline for me since I have a visual impairment.

“The village is poorly serviced by the bus service. The nearest post office is 4 miles away. I am concerned about the increase in traffic and the vehicles crossing into and out to the new Co-op.”

One other resident says: “We already have a very good village shop and post office and there is a new Aldi being built at Eastrea nearby.

Lincolnshire Co-op wants to build a store like this in Eastrea near Whittlesey. But many villagers oppose the idea. This is the design put forward for the Coates store.

Lincolnshire Co-op wants to build a store like this in Coates near Whittlesey. But many villagers oppose the idea. This is the design put forward for the Coates store. 

“There are 2 Co-ops and 2 Nisas in Whittlesey already.

“The village shop does a great job at providing a service to the local community and passing trade on the A605.

“However, it is unlikely the area would be able to support two retail premises and if the independent village shop were forced to close the area would lose its post office as well.

“The post office serves not only the village but the surrounding area and villages.

“Many elderly residents rely on the shop and post office for banking needs as well as their groceries.”

One other person wrote in to say “I oppose having a Co-op op as the site is on a blind bend and very close to the zebra crossing which the primary school children use.

“Access would be very dangerous as this part of the village is busy.

Site of a proposed new Co-op for Coates near Whittlesey

Site of a proposed new Co-op for Coates near Whittlesey

“Co-op are incredibly expensive shops as seen with the two already in Whittlesey.

“Our village shop does a great job at supplying us with a post office and convenience foods should villagers run short, and the new Aldi (it opens on June 29) will be used for bigger shops.

“The danger it could potentially cause with the traffic slowing on the bend to turn in whilst parents try to get their children into school in time is not worth opening an expensive shop that won’t be used.”

One other local resident and business owner said: “I wish to object to this planning application on the grounds that it’s in an unsuitable location, due to there already being too many junctions/access points onto the main A605 in too short a stretch of road, around this location.

“This part of the village is already too busy, and it includes the primary school, the only pedestrian crossing in the village and a known problem high speed bend.

7-10pm opening is a concern

He added: “The store proposes to be open 7a.m. – 10p.m, 7 days a week this will bring noise, litter, and light pollution to neighbouring homes as well as possible anti-social behaviour in the car park – revving engines, loud music from cars both in and out of trading hours.

“The size of the building and close proximity to the homes behind it will result in considerable loss of light and overshadowing.

“The visual impact from all aspects of the building will be detrimental to the village and is entirely out of keeping with the surrounding environment.”

Another felt that “building a Co-op store on the main road in the small village of Coates is a very bad idea.

“The position of the shop will be dangerous as it is close to a blind bend and near the pedestrian crossing. My fear is that an accident will occur.

“I walk my child to and from school in Coates daily. At the moment, we run the gauntlet of all manner of vehicles whizzing through the village”.

Site of a proposed new Co-op for Coates near Whittlesey

Site of a proposed new Co-op for Coates near Whittlesey

“Another concern is that the small family run shop in the village will close if a shiny new Co-op is built. If the shop closes, we will lose the post office & this would be a tragedy for the many residents who rely on it.

One other felt there had been “lack of consultation with local residents, communication very poor.

“This development does not add to the local community and will undermine local businesses”.

Another resident said “this shop is just not needed; we have a large Aldi within 2 miles of the plans and also a local shop.

We need a GP surgery first

“Try building another doctors’ surgery instead – something we actually need.”

A handful of comments were in agreement with the store being built.

“I would love this so much,” said one resident. “The little shop in Coates is ok but the owners are rude.”

And another felt that the “current site is an over grown eyesore with rusty shipping containers and has been for years.

“It could slow the traffic through the village as most residents are witness to traffic speeds through Coates of well over 50 mph, but no one seems to care about that.

“Many residents will oppose this; however, they DO NOT live opposite this site. It would be a welcome addition to have a landscaped area, with a CLEAN, tidy shop selling fresh produce”.

And a third felt it a “great use for this brown field site. The current village shop is too small for this expanding village. I strongly support this application”.

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