Pakefield Tesco fight stepped up

PEOPLE fighting controversial plans for a fourth Tesco store in the Lowestoft area pledged this week to step up their campaign as it emerged the company would have to submit a full planning application.

More than 2,600 people have now signed a petition opposing the supermarket giant's proposals to convert the historic Tramway Hotel in London Road, Pakefield, into a new Tesco Express store.

But last week, amid growing protests over the move, Waveney planning officers inspected the building and concluded it was run as a pub and a hotel – meaning Tesco could be forced to submit a full planning application.

The move was welcomed as an important 'step forward' by campaigners who are concerned about the potential impact that a new store would have on existing shops and businesses in Pakefield.

Had the council classified The Tramway as a pub, Tesco would not have been obliged to submit a full planning application to convert it to a shop – meaning its proposals might not have been subjected to a full debate by councillors.

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A Waveney spokesman said: 'Planning officers were able to meet with the landlord of the premises, enter the property and, for the first time, view the various floors. This visit and tour has enabled the council to consider the nature of The Tramway's business and use.

'It also means that officers have now – again for the first time – been able to make a thorough assessment of the whole premises; an assessment which has practical implications for the proposals by Tesco.

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'The ground floor is laid out as a pub and there is no evidence of 'hotel' features, such as a reception desk.

'The first floor is, however, laid out with six rooms which take reservations and we have now established that there is a dual management arrangement for the premises. While the premises in their entirety cannot be considered a 'hotel' as such, Waveney District Council planning officers believe that their investigations indicate a premises with mixed use of public house and hotel facilities. This would, therefore, take the premises out of the 'A4 use' class and it suggests that a change from its current use to retail would require a planning application.'

The spokesman added: 'Following the completion of preliminary inquiries, the council has now written to Tesco, inviting them to submit a planning application for a change of use, or, to submit evidence explaining why they consider the premises not to be of mixed use, in planning terms.'

Since Tesco announced its plans for The Tramway, opposition has been mounting in the Pakefield area.

Last month, a 'Pakefield opposing Tesco' group was set up to co-ordinate the protest campaign and a public meeting it organised at the Seagull Theatre on December 1 was attended by more than 150 people.

Last Friday, a demonstration was held outside the council's Marina Centre to rally opposition to the plans.

Hilary Lepine, who lives in Florence Road, Pakefield, attended the event along with neighbours and local traders. They handed over letters of objection and petitions to the council.

Welcoming Waveney's ruling on the status of The Tramway as a pub and hotel, she said: 'It is a step forward – we have won the battle but now the war goes on. We are obviously delighted that Waveney District Council responded. 'While it is likely to go quiet now we have started a process of getting the building listed and we are looking at the Localism Bill. In principal, Tesco is not needed or wanted in Pakefield.'

Labour's prospective parliamentary candidate for Waveney, Bob Blizzard, was also present.

He said: 'I think it is a major step forward. The strength of feeling that exists here has had an impact on the council. It's quite clear people in Pakefield don't want a Tesco – there is huge opposition – this is a landmark building for the whole of Lowestoft and it should be saved.'

Paul Hobbs, chairman of the Promoting Pakefield Group, added: 'I have been reassured by the planning officers' ability to move this forward.'

Thanking those who turned out last week, Waveney councillor for Pakefield, Peter Byatt, said: 'With the potential to go to full planning, the group needs to consider what their next step will be. There will be a need to get everything together to submit views to the planning committee.'

Roger Tillett, the owner and sub post-master of the Spar and post office in Pakefield, said: 'Our store collected more than 2,600 signatures alone for the petition (that was handed over last Friday). There are more petitions in and around Pakefield yet to be handed in.'

A spokesman for Tesco said the company was considering its next move.

He told The Journal: 'We have been working closely with Waveney District Council and are therefore surprised by their interpretation of the site as being 'premises with mixed use'.

'To the best of our knowledge, the building has been operated almost exclusively as a pub in recent years and has few of the requirements of a functioning hotel. We will now be seeking clarification on this issue and will continue to work with the council as we decide how best to move forward.'

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