Co-op wins appeal to build new store in south Cambridgeshire village

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A new Co-op supermarket is set to be built in a south Cambridgeshire village after it successfully appealed a decision to refuse the plans. The new grocery store is to be built on West Street, Comberton.

The plans had been turned down by South Cambridgeshire District Council, due to concerns the store would have over existing shops in the village. However, following an appeal to the town planning inspectorate, the plans have now been approved.

Proposals were submitted by Abbey Group Ltd and the Co-operative Group and were for a new grocery store, with 17 parking spaces, including two disabled spaces, and a bay reserved for parents and children.

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In planning documents it said: ‘The retail store is small in size and is intended to provide convenience for local residents as a whole. It would not seek to compete with larger grocery stores in the surrounding area (such as Morrisons in Cambourne), nor would it be a retail destination for shopping.

“There would be an impact on the existing Budgens store, but our analysis notes that the village does not have a defined shopping center, so the Budgens store is more favorable to the application site.

“Anyway, Comberton can accommodate two small grocery stores. The Budgens store, which includes a post office, will remain a viable place for local residents to shop. »

Comberton Parish Council and Toft Parish Council opposed the application, both raising concerns about the impact on existing village shops. The plans had been recommended for approval by the council’s planning officers, but were ultimately refused.

The notice of decision said the application had not demonstrated that Comberton could maintain an additional grocery store and that it would not have a “significant adverse impact” on the “vitality and viability” of the grocery stores. existing in the village. Road safety concerns were also cited as a second reason for refusal, as the workshop was to be located on Comberton Village College Road, with no safe crossing point offered.

“The new retail unit would add to the range of grocery stores available”

The town planning inspector considered the two grounds for refusal given by the district council, but decided that the development would comply with its planning policies. In the appeal decision report, the planning inspector said he recognized the new store would be in competition with existing stores in Comberton and the Toft Shop.

They explained that while they accepted that there could be some impact on existing stores, they said there was no basis in planning policies to protect existing businesses from “commercial competition legit”.

The report states: “I am fully aware of the importance of local businesses and services to rural communities, and the challenges faced by small businesses in these areas.

“However, the way in which relevant policies seek to address competition concerns is primarily to enable innovation and improve consumer choice, providing equal support and encouragement to all types of rural businesses, including new entrants as well as established companies.

“In this case, the new business unit would add to the range of food businesses available in the Comberton area. I accept that there is no certainty that all of these stores would survive then, but that can in no way be guaranteed, regardless of the call proposition. Nationwide, many villages have struggled to retain even the slightest retail supply.

“Given the medium to long-term outlook, it seems to me that the development proposed today would add to the range of choice, and thus strengthen the chances that the area will continue to be served by one or more viable local businesses. until late at night. the future.”

The inspector said the proposed store’s proximity to the college would likely see a “significant” number of people crossing the road, adding that they acknowledged existing safe passageways were “limited”. However, they said they saw no reason why a new crossing, such as a zebra crossing, could not be put in place, and that it would improve pedestrian safety.

The inspector concluded that subject to a condition of creating a new level crossing, the new workshop could be built without “unacceptable damage to road safety”.

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