Supermarket plan at former pub approved

FIGHT IS OVER: Campaigners outside the Highbury Barn in Great Cornard last year after an appeal to demolish the pub was turned down.
FIGHT IS OVER: Campaigners outside the Highbury Barn in Great Cornard last year after an appeal to demolish the pub was turned down.

Attempts to turn a former Great Cornard pub into a supermarket appear certain to go ahead after the plans were approved.

Punch Taverns, the owner of the Highbury Barn in Canhams Road, has been working on proposals to create a food store on the site for nearly two years.

Yesterday, members of Babergh District Council’s development committee gave their permission for the demolition of the pub’s existing rear extension and the building of a new single-storey extension.

As the company is already free to change the 18th century building into a retail unit, this consent clears the way for the supermarket plans.

A community campaign, spearheaded by Gavin Fance, whose grandparents once ran the pub, had been set up to fight for the retention of the building as a public house, but no residents objecting to the proposals were present at the meeting.

“I am surprised and disappointed there are no members of the public here who have been trying to save it as a public house and have been vocal in the area,” said Peter Beer, chairman of the committee.

“I do have one or two concerns, but this needs sorting out.”

The pub, which closed in November 2012, was registered as a community asset earlier this year, giving those wishing to see it saved the chance to buy it should the building ever be put up for sale.

The council had received 18 letters opposing the application, with concerns regarding potential deliveries to the shop, noise and whether a new food store was actually needed in the village.

An online petition by Mr Fance, from Sycamore Road, had also been signed by 200 people and called for the change of use to be prevented.

Councillor Michael Bamford questioned if any “viability studies” had taken place for the supermarket.

“Is there any evidence that supports it is needed?,” he said.

Mr Beer, a ward member for Great Cornard, said it appeared convenience shops were struggling just as much as pubs.

“The Dairy Stores is closing this weekend, as is its sister shop in Long Melford, so the viability of smaller shops to make a go of things seems difficult at the moment,” he said.

“It is the same as the public house, which used to be very popular.”

Councillor Nick Ridley said that was a concern for the future but, as Punch Taverns did not need permission to turn the pub into a retail unit, it was not something planning could influence.

“It is a building people do not want to see demolished and there is a proposal on the table that will see it remain,” he said.

“This has to be considered an improvement.”

Other proposals for the store include increasing the number of car parking spaces to 23, with two disabled bays, and installing an ATM machine.

Rex Thake said his only worry was that the shop would be open 24 hours a day, but case officer Nicola Cook said the applicant had indicated operating times would be from 7am to 10pm, from Monday to Saturday, and from 9am to 10pm on Sundays.

Despite plans to build a £1million retail unit – which would have seen the pub demolished – being rejected in December 2012, members, with the exception of Mr Beer, voted in favour of the application.

Squatter David Vernon is expected to be removed soon.