PLANS to convert a former Frampton Cotterell pub into a Co-op and homes have been approved, despite fears the new store could force local shopkeepers out of business.
South Gloucestershire Council’s development management committee voted, by 5 votes to 4, to grant permission for the new store, a house, three flats and a bungalow at the Live and Let Live pub in Clyde Road (above), which closed four years ago and has been empty ever since.
Members had deferred the decision at a previous meeting in October to get more information about the likely impact on nearby shops.
Officers concluded the proposals would not significantly harm the local centre or lead to any nearby shops closing.
But Edwina Pennell, who manages the family-run Village Roots Budgens shop and post office in Woodend Road in Coalpit Heath, told the committee that the store would not survive if the plans went ahead.
She said: “This store means everything to us – our whole family relies on it.
“This is our livelihood. We don’t have pensions, we’ve always believed we would be running that store.
“We used to be supplied by the Co-op.
“When we saw their application we decided to leave them because we were so disgusted that they had decided to try to open a store in direct competition to us.
“It is clear they have always wanted to take our post office and our store away from us and carry on in our place, returning to the store they abandoned 34 years ago.
“It has been incredibly stressful running the post office and it has taken us six years’ learning, making mistakes, to build it into the vibrant post office it is today, which is very important to our residents.
“Co-op clearly know that if they move in, the post office will close.”
Local planning consultant Stuart Rackham said a petition opposing the development had been signed by 470 residents.
He said assessments of the retail impact in the report to the committee were flawed and exposed the council to the threat of a judicial review.
Frampton Cotterell ward councillor Jon Lean said the report “paints a bleak picture” for shopkeepers, and called for the decision to be delayed again because key information was still missing.
But Tristan Hutton, partner at Alder King property consultants in Bristol, representing the applicants, said council officers agreed the new store would not lead to the closure of an existing shop.
He said that in the unlikely event that the post office closed, the Co-op would open one at its new outlet.
South Gloucestershire Council senior planning officer Suzanne D’Arcy told members there was a “real chance” the developers would launch an appeal, with the authority liable for full costs, if a decision was deferred again because the decision deadline had passed and “three viability reports all say the same thing”.
Councillors ‘bite the bullet’
Committee member June Bamford (Con, Hanham) said: “I would have preferred housing there and not a retail outlet.
“I do understand the concerns – it’s their livelihoods they’re worried about – but I don’t think any planning inspector would agree with refusal.
“We cannot defer it again. We have to bite the bullet and make our decision.”
John Bradbury (Lab, Bradley Stoke South) said: “I know this development is going to hit the people who run other shops in the area but – I hate to say this, it pains me to say this – if there is competition set up then that is the free market in operation.”
There were 76 objections from residents, with 20 letters of support.
The report to committee on December 7 said reopening the pub was not viable.
Officers said: “While it is accepted that the closure of an existing shop cannot be ruled out in the long term, it is difficult to justify that this would be the direct result of the proposed convenience store.”
By Adam Postans, Local Democracy Reporting Service