Campaigners were celebrating this week after councillors defied legal advice and planning guidance to deliver a major blow to Tesco’s proposals to open a new store at the Tramway Hotel in Pakefield. There were cheers and applause at Lowestoft Town Hall when members of Waveney District Council’s development control committee decided the building in London Road was a “mixed use” hotel and pub.
The vote went against the council’s own stance – based on independent legal advice – stating the Tramway was only a pub and that the company did not need planning permission to convert it into a Tesco Express.
But as campaigners celebrated the councillors’ decision and heard claims Tesco was “bullying” the community, it emerged the company could still press ahead with its plans which, it says, would be a “popular” option.
Having been granted approval to extend the Tramway Hotel, Tesco may trigger a costly legal battle by claiming Waveney acted beyond its powers by ignoring the independent legal advice which said it was solely a pub.
It could also opt to submit a full “change of use” planning application to convert the Victorian building.
A Tesco spokesman said yesterday: “We’ll have a review and think about what to do next. We think our store would be popular with customers as it would offer a wide range of products in a convenient location and create about 20 jobs for local people.”
The meeting on Wednesday evening was the latest chapter in the 17-month battle which began when Tesco announced plans for the store – its fourth in the Lowestoft area – in November 2012. Since then, people in Pakefield have voiced fears over the likely increase traffic and the potential impact on other local shops.
Bob Blizzard, chairman of the campaign group Pakefield Opposed to Tesco, spoke at the meeting. Amid applause from the public gallery, he urged the committee:
“Stand by the people of Lowestoft. Don’t let them (Tesco) bully and bamboozle their way into the Tramway Hotel.”
After the meeting, he told The Journal:
“The people of Pakefield are delighted... The committee clearly assessed the situation and came up with the same view that people of Pakefield hold – that the Tramway Hotel is partly a hotel.
“Tesco has got two choices now if it wants to go ahead: it can either apply for change of use planning permission or defy the council and move in – it can either apply or defy.”
Gareth Douce, councillor for Kirkley ward, put forward the motion at Wednesday’s meeting suggesting the council should classify the Tramway Hotel as of “mixed use”. He queried the independent legal advice from barrister Josef Cannon which said the Tramway’s kitchen did not serve evening meals, that there was no reception desk and entrances at ground level all served the ground floor pub area.
He said it was clear from evidence within the hospitality industry that those factors would not stop hotels and guest houses receiving star awards and they were common to many premises.
After the meeting, Mr Douce said:
“I am really pleased I was supported by some of my fellow councillors. In my opinion, a councillor’s primary role is to represent the people of Waveney.
“Advisers advise and councillors decide – that is how it is meant to be.”
Sonia Barker, councillor for Pakefield, also spoke at the meeting, prompting applause in the public gallery. She said:
“The decision being made here tonight is all about the common good of a local community.”
Malcolm Cherry, councillor for St Margaret' Ward said that he felt the committee was being “bullied” into sticking to the independent legal advice and that