The application to turn 105 Ladywell Road into a takeaway came to my planning committee last night. I used my right as ward councillor to speak against this and then withdraw from the meeting, as I felt I had a fairly closed mind on this particular application. A representative from Ladywell Society also spoke against.
The officer recommendation was to grant permission as it was felt that it was unlikely that refusal would be upheld on appeal. However, after some discussion, the committee decided to defer the decision until the next meeting, pending evidence of how long the property has been empty and how exhaustive the owner's efforts have been to let the premises.
I was pleased that committee members were sympathetic to local concerns and asked for further information. Under the old UDP (unitary development plan) there are few grounds on which to turn the change of use down, but under the draft LDF (local development framework), there is more potential and planning committees currently have to consider both policies as we are part-way between the two.
The key planning consideration was whether the loss of an A1 shop would contribute towards preserving or enhancing the local character, vitality and viability of the shopping parade. The officer's report argued that it would not harm the shopping parade as there would still be 21 other A1 category premises in the area (A1, incidentally, includes hairdressers and launderettes among other things, not just 'shops'). I argued that it would adversely affect the viability of the shopping parade, as we don't currently have anywhere selling good quality fresh food, eg fresh fruit and veg, meat or fish in the area and this would be one less possible premises for a greengrocers or other decent food shop.
The application also has to be considered alongside the fact that Rio Grill (Life Cafe as was) is operating as a takeaway without the appropriate planning consent, the empty 'Snack Bar' could potentially reopen one day as a takeaway, and there is another application pending to change 40 Ladywell Road from A1 to a cafe (plus we already have a kebab shop, fish and chip shop, Chinese takeaway, cafe on Algernon Road and Ladywell Tandoori).
It was also useful to be able to refer to the results of the recent survey of views on Ladywell shops and services, including the fact that over 50% of respondents said they would like to see a fruit and veg shop, 46% would like a coffee shop and 43% wanted a deli, but not one person said they wanted more takeaways. Unfortunately our current planning policy is exceedingly limited in its ability to protect small, local shopping parades from turning into little more than rows of takeaways, estate agents and money transfer shops.
Anyway, the decision has been postponed for 6 weeks, which gives budding enterpreneurs 6 weeks to persuade the owner of 105 Ladywell Road to let the premises to them to open a decent food shop instead of opening yet another takeaway.