Bid to turn empty store into accessible holiday let could get green light

Plans have been approved to convert a former holiday letting agency and gift shop in Trinity Street, Southwold, into a...

Plans have been approved to convert a former holiday letting agency and gift shop in Trinity Street, Southwold, into an accessible holiday let. - Credit: Google Maps

An empty shop could be transformed into an accessible holiday let in a popular coastal town under new plans.

East Suffolk Council's northern planning committee will meet on January 12 to discuss a bid to convert the former gift shop and holiday letting agency at 9 Trinity Street, Southwold.

A report prepared for councillors ahead of the meeting states the applicant, Rebecca Meo, highlights the "dearth" of accommodation in the town for people confined to a wheelchair, adding the conversion of the ground floor unit would be "of great benefit".

It adds: "The applicant explains the most recent retail use has not been successful with the premises being slightly off the beaten track and much less prone to footfall than the High Street.

"The shop had been marketed, at a reduced rate, through an estate agent for nine months without any interest at all."

The applicant is also applying for a disabled parking bay to be added outside the property.

However, the plans have been met with opposition from Southwold Town Council, which has recommended district councillors refuse the proposal.

Southwold High Street

Southwold High Street

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Commenting on the proposal, a town council spokesperson said: "East Street is a vibrant part of the town centre and there is a successful gift shop on the corner with Trinity Street a few doors down from this shop.

"We have been advised by Suffolk County Council's Highways team that it grants disabled bays to specific individuals, not premises, so we have assumed no parking provision can be made for this new use.

"In response to a question, the applicant said if she were unable to obtain a disabled parking bay for the specific use of the flat, she would still want to use the premises for self-catered leisure accommodation."

In January 2020, town council research showed there were 374 holiday lets in Southwold, with 239 of these not providing off-road parking.

The Southwold and Reydon Society has also recommended refusing the plans due to the loss of a retail unit and lack of parking.

The report prepared ahead of Tuesday's meeting, however, recommends approving the plans, arguing there are no highways grounds to refuse the application based on planning guidelines and while "unfortunate", there are no policies in the Local Plan to keep the building as a retail unit.