From the Lowestoft Journal:
Campaigners trying to stop Tesco opening a store in Pakefield have this week launched a fresh bid to scupper the high street chain’s plans.
For the past 19 months people in Pakefield have been fighting plans to convert the Tramway Hotel in London Road into a Tesco Express store.
In April, the campaigners were seemingly dealt a fatal blow after a full meeting of Waveney District Council paved the way for Tesco to move into the Tramway. The council ruled the building was just a pub and so change-of-use planning permission was not needed.
But this week, there was yet another dramatic twist in the long-running controversy after the group Pakefield Opposing Tesco (POT) lodged a certificate of lawful use at Waveney, asking the council to register the Tramway as a site of mixed use of pub and hotel – meaning Tesco has to put in a full-blown planning application.
And as part of POT’s strongly-held view that Tesco should need change-of-use planning permission, it has hired a barrister to argue their case that the Tramway is a hotel and pub.
POT says the case presented by barrister Juan Lopez is compelling and hopes that, when the matter goes back before Waveney’s development control committee, a vital victory could be secured if councillors on the planning body go against April’s ruling of the full council.
Bob Blizzard, chairman of POT, said:
“We have assembled a stack of evidence that the Tramway Hotel is what everyone knows it to be – a hotel and pub.
“The barrister we have engaged is in no doubt and his legal opinion is emphatic.
“There will now be another opportunity for councillors on the development control committee to stand by the people of Pakefield by approving our application. I’m sure that large numbers will again turn up at Lowestoft Town Hall to show the strength of feeling.
“The fight goes on to stop Tesco and save the Tramway,”
“The feeling in Pakefield against Tesco taking over the Tramway is as strong as ever and POT is determined to fight on. I hope the councillors on the DCC back us”.
Mr Lopez has produced a 38-point report that concludes the Tramway is currently a building of mixed use.
In his report, Mr Lopez says: “The internal layout of the accommodation and other parts of the property is consistent with a primary hotel use.
“Five of the accommodation rooms include shower and basin facilities, with one including a basin only. Other conventional facilities include a television, tea and coffee facilities, iron and complimentary toiletries. A breakfast option is also made available to all guests.”
At the end of April, Waveney’s full council saw a tight vote of 23-22 go in favour of a council report that said councillors should follow legal advice that the Tramway was just a pub as Tesco could launch a legal appeal process.
At the beginning of April a meeting of the development control committee had gone against independent legal advice and voted in favour of registering the Tramway as mixed use – a decision that was then quashed by the full council.
Gareth Douce, councillor for Kirkley, had suggested the change-of-use motion at the development control committee and is looking forward to voting on the issue again.
“It needs to happen in an open and transparent way for councillors to make their decision.”
Sonia Barker, Waveney councillor for Pakefield and leader of the Labour opposition group at the council, had spoken out against Tesco plans at previous meetings.
“It is good that this supporting evidence will help in the application by the Pakefield Opposing Tesco group to Waveney for a certificate of lawful use to establish that the Tramway Hotel is a mixed use of hotel and pub.
“I look forward to representing the views of Pakefield residents when this application comes before the committee in the near future.”
Barrister Josef Cannon had prepared a report to the full council meeting that said in his view it was an “unwise” decision by the development control committee as Mr Douce’s motion was not on the agenda, was not supported by any evidence or report and was contrary to disclosed legal advice.
An earlier independent report by Mr Cannon had said that under the Town and Country Planning (General Permitted Development Order) 1995 the Tramway should be classified as a pub.
A spokesman for Waveney said: “We have received the application plus a copy of the barrister’s opinion and we will consider all the evidence before presenting it to the development control committee in a report.”
Mr Blizzard said POT was grateful to all those who had supported POT quiz nights, coffee mornings and table- top sales to raise the money needed to engage Mr Lopez.