News that Labour run Newport City Council approved plans to convert a pub into a small Sainsbury’s in Caerleon will sadly shock very few interested observers. Opponents of the development were disappointed by the decision by Newport planning committee to allow the conversion of the Angel Hotel on Goldcroft Common, Caerleon. One of the reason as to why the application was approved may well have been the concern that the developer would appeal if the planning committee threw out the application.
Council Officers and a sub-committee of planning councillors had visited the Caerleon site but recommended Hillvale Properties Ltd’s plans for a Sainsbury’s be approved. Over 1,700 signatures were collected for a petition against the move, along with 128 letters of objection were sent to the council. Some 66 postcards, distributed by Sainsbury’s to local residents, were received in support.
Newport City Council has recently lost appeals against a decision not to give planning permission for a site in Rogerstone to be redeveloped for a Tesco Express store following a planning inquiry in 2008 and plans to convert the former Black Horse Inn pub on Somerton Road into a Tesco Express store over in Somerton. Despite the Council’s and local people’s concerns and objections, the Planning Inspectorate allowed Tesco to appeal.
It is worth noting that the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) has previously noted that the UK loses around 2,000 local shops each year and if this continue then by 2015 there will be no independent retailers left in business. Over recent years across all of Wales, that particularly useful mix of local shops, small businesses and local suppliers have come under increasing pressure as the usual suspects in the shape of “identikit” chain stores have replicated themselves across our towns.
The bottom line is that our planning process has been weakened and undermined, as local authorities fear the cost implications of supermarket applications being taken to appeal after appeal if the original outline planning permission is refused. We are not far away from the point where Councillors will be advised by their officers to grant planning permission less the potential costs of refusing a development proposal from a large company prove to damaging – at which point an part of our local democratic system will have quietly died.