Town centre supermarket could ‘tip the retail balance’

Strong objections have been voiced over plans to demolish the former Reepham Motors garage/depot on School Road and build a convenience store.

At a well-attended meeting of Reepham Town Council last week, residents and town centre traders expressed their concerns about the damage that a national supermarket chain, rumoured to be Tesco, could cause to the local economy.
It was pointed out that the site had earlier received planning permission for the erection of four dwellings, but the property had been sold at auction in October, just before the latest plans were submitted.
Local property owner Colin Prince said the development would result in the loss of amenity for residents in close proximity to the site and create difficulties with regard to access of motor vehicles and servicing of the building.
He pointed out that articulated lorries would have to access School Road from Townsend Corner and undertake a three-point turn after making a delivery.
Current plans show the building would be set back from the road to accommodate six customer-parking bays, but this would make it incongruous with the existing streetscape, said Mr Prince.
Concerns were also expressed by residents from adjacent properties potentially overlooking the building, as well as the increased noise and light pollution generated by a store with extended opening hours.
The meeting was told that the proposed development could upset the delicate retail economy of Reepham, which still has a number of small, independent shops.
With trade currently precarious, such a development “might be just enough to tip the balance and we could lose the existing businesses in the Market Place,” warned postmaster Douglas Johnson. “We need to attract the right businesses to Reepham.”
It was pointed out that Reepham already has a convenience store – Spar in Ollands Road, which caters for residents when other businesses are closed.
Butcher Brian Robertson asked whether the town needed another supermarket, adding: “It could be a tipping point for a lot of us.”
Safety concerns on Townsend Corner were also raised, especially before and after school, when a large number of coaches enter and leave the high school and dozens of children walk along School Road to and from the primary and high schools.
Discussing the planning application (20171974), Cllr Michael Pender-Cudlip said the plans were contrary to the principles and policy of the current Joint Core Strategy for Broadland, Norwich and South Norfolk.
He pointed out that Policy 14 of this document refers to Key Service Centres, of which Reepham is one, and underlines the importance of residential development. The Policy states that “established retail and service areas will be protected and enhanced where appropriate”.
He noted that the proposed store would more than double the existing retail space of the current, mainly family-run businesses in the town centre. “This represents a fundamental change of the retail environment, not an enhancement,” he told the meeting.
Cllr John Rawlinson pointed out that not everyone is against the planned development, but agreed that School Road is not a good site, especially in view of the access.
The Town Council voted unanimously to object to the planning application.
The Council also objected to an application by local builder Derek Crane to remove a condition of planning permission 20150375 to provide a 2.5 metre access to 15 Crown Meadow, Reepham.
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