An angry exchange between an aggrieved agent and the planning department of Fenland District Council will come to a head next week and could determine if a village gets the return of a local shop.
Simon Lemmon of distinct DESIGNS UK LTD has queried why officers at Fenland District Council recommend an application to build three units – a takeaway, retail shop with post office and a convenience store – at Tydd St Giles be refused.
“l notice the recommendation has now changed to refusal,” he told the council.
“Bearing in mind the previous two officers were both in support please can you explain why this is so?
“Also, I just wanted to be up front and let you know, irrespective of the outcome of the application, a formal complaint will be submitted once this process has been completed.”
The fate of the application, which includes a one-bedroom flat above one of the units, and a car park south west of Sapphire Close and accessed from Broad Drove East, will be decided by the council planning committee next Wednesday.
Satu Pardivalla, the planning officer now handling the application, which was submitted more than a year ago, has rebutted his claims.
“I have reviewed the application file but have not come across correspondence which suggests that the scheme was viewed favourably or going to be recommended for approval by officers who previously dealt with this application,” she told him.
“I therefore cannot comment on an assertion that there has been a change of assessment/recommendation.
“I am sorry to note your disappointment; you can lodge a grievance at any point.”
Mr Lemmon remains unimpressed and unconvinced.
“Well, I have emails from both the previous planning officers which will of course be going into the formal complaint,” he told her.
75 letters of support for new development
“I am sorry to say that this is another example of the state of Fenland council! No, requests for extensions of time and simply take as long as you like!
“On this particular application, highways, the Environment Agency, the parish council and nearly seventy-five letters of support.
“The proposal will create jobs, reduce vehicle movements therefore reducing CO2 and the need to use a vehicle and it is still recommended for refusal despite the above.
“What more can l say.”
Nilesha Sundavadra is the businessman hoping to bring a shop back to Tydd St Giles having previously opened a convenience store in Parson Drove.
Correspondence on the planning portal at the council he says that “as an experienced businessman, I can see Tydd St Giles as a brilliant commercial opportunity.
“And we have proved this at Parson Drove store, which was in a similar position, in fact, Parson Drove had a post office with a small shop within it whereas Tydd St Giles does not have anything such as a shop, post office or fish and chips shop.”
Mr Sundavadra says: “I feel the council does not want its local residents to have this service/facility which seem to be greatly needed and wanted by the villagers.
“Our proposed site has a community centre right opposite and houses on either side. Again, the support from the villagers prove it is not a speculative venture.”
He said he had asked his current business supplier to test the market for a new store in Tydd St Giles.
“This survey came back expecting high business turnaround,” he said. “The village has a good size population. The village is very supportive of the business plan and are very happy to have this business come to the village.
Applicant says he’s happy to appeal if plans rejected
“The officer is more concerned about possible loss of business which is not his concern. I feel there may be a hidden agenda which the officer is hiding behind.
“If the officer is not happy to grant us planning permission on the plans as they are now, then please ask him to refuse it and I will be happy to appeal it based on the original plans as I am confident the site is perfect for the business which already has the support of the villagers.”
Among reasons for recommending refusal, the planning report being considered by the committee says the site is out of the village and Broad Drove East “is a narrow road barely passable by two vehicles abreast, with few passing places”.
Noting that the village no longer has a shop or take away “and mobile take aways have not succeeded in the past”, planners claim the size of Mr Sundavadra’s development “is indicative of a facility to serve a settlement larger than Tydd St Giles.
“And the inclusion of a takeaway and level of parking to be provided and site location also suggests that the proposal seeks to attract business from a wider area.
“In other words, the catchment area is greater than the village and not proportionate to it as required triggering the need to submit a retail impact assessment also indicates that the scale of retail provision will not be proportionate to meet local needs.”
The report adds: “Drawing all the above together, it is considered that the proposal would not advance a small-scale development within or adjacent a settlement.
“Rather than meet the shopping needs of the village the scale of the proposal is geared towards a wider catchment, which together with the remote location of the site mitigates against sustainable development.
“The proposal is not accompanied by a Retail Impact Assessment required to be submitted as the development size threshold has been exceeded. The site is located within Flood Zone 3, the requisite sequential test has not been passed.”
Officers argue that “development of a substantial building, as proposed, would result in the introduction of an alien form of activity in an essentially open countryside location which would be fundamentally at odds with the visual characteristics and role of the countryside.”
They also claim the scale of the development “is not proportionate to meeting local needs and services.
“It has not been adequately demonstrated there are no such alternative sites within the district and in the absence of this information the sequential test is not passed.
“Consequently, there are no justifiable reasons for the proposal to be located in an area of highest flood risk”.
Parish council supports new development
Tydd St Giles parish council said local residents had addressed a meeting, speaking both for and against the proposed development.
“Concerns raised by members of the council and residents included the viability of the three shops, the concerns raised by the police in respect of the ATM, the opening hours of the proposed hot food takeaway, ownership of the access road, and the need for lighting,” was how they summarised it to the district council.
“Members were informed by the landowner that the applicant is an experienced businessman capable of delivering the proposed uses and that the access road to the development will remain the property of the landowner.
“In view of the parish council’s desire to see a village shop return to the village and the level of public support for a village shop, members resolved to offer no objection”.
Among many letters in support and some against, one woman told planners: “This development is totally out of keeping in a very small village.
“It’s not even in the centre of the village, where one would expect to find a small retail development. There are already takeaway places within two miles, already several village shops within two miles (Sutton St James, Tydd St Mary).
“There were shops in the village which closed because they weren’t viable.
“Businesses cannot make an income on the occasional pint of milk that someone has run out of. This creeping ribbon development, eating into agricultural land is not something to be encouraged.”
She added: “I am horrified that, with the Fenland obesity problem and associated health issues which take up so much NHS time and money in an area with a dearth of doctors, that there is to be a takeaway”.
Fenland District Council planning committee meets at 1pm on July 26 and can be viewed live on YouTube
Tydd St. Giles, the northernmost parish in Cambridgeshire, is situated 6 miles north of Wisbech. The main photo is of the proposed site for a shop, take away and convenience store.
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