Locals resist Co-op Food’s pub site plans

Plans to open Co-operative Food stores on pub sites are meeting local resistance. Dudley Council has refused planning permission for two stores earmarked for sites formerly operated by...

Plans to open Co-operative Food stores on pub sites are meeting local resistance. Dudley Council has refused planning permission for two stores earmarked for sites formerly operated by Marston’s. Sandwell Council has refused one.

At Wordsley, near Dudley, neighbours are campaigning against a new-build Co-op store proposed for the car park of the Ashwood Inn. More than 50 local people attended a campaign meeting in the run up to Dudley Council’s development control committee meeting on 21 September . The committee rejected the plans due to lack of parking, adverse effects on other businesses and congestion.

Wordsley councillor Paul Brothwood (UKIP) said: “There are already three empty shops opposite and a convenience store. The Co-op needs to listen to the views of people who are adamant this isn’t wanted. I’m determined to do everything I can to stop this build.”

Plans to demolish the Maypole Inn in Halesowen and build a Co-op were rejected at the same meeting. Councillors opted to save the pub, which is listed as an asset of community value, because it was well used and close to existing retailers.

The committee approved plans to build a Co-op on the car park at the Crown in Netherton at the meeting. It has already approved plans to close the Hasbury Inn, Hasbury, and convert it into a Co-op Food store.

Plans to build a new Co-op on the car park at the Haden Cross were rejected by Sandwell Council in January due to loss of amenity and loss of outlook. Revised plans will go before the council on 18 November. More than 550 people have signed a petition to save the pub, which is an asset of community value, and 48 have filed objections with the council.

Chairman of the Friends of Haden Cross Tim Haskey said: “The Co-operative is a swearword in this area. It’s forcing itself on the community. We’re not going to go down without a fight. If it was an empty, boarded-up pub we’d understand but this is a viable business.”

Tim Haskey: 'If it was an empty, boarded-up pub we'd understand, but this is a viable business'
Tim Haskey: ‘If it was an empty, boarded-up pub we’d understand, but this is a viable business’

The applications were all made by real estate investment trust NewRiver Retail, which acquired 202 pubs from Marston’s for £90m in November 2013. In spring 2014 the Co-operative Food agreed to lease 54 sites from the portfolio. This has since increased to 63.

NewRiver says most of the stores will be newly built on ‘surplus land’ next to the pubs, such as car parks and gardens. Some of the pubs will continue to operate under lease to NewRiver. Others will be converted or redeveloped as convenience stores. Some will be extended.

NewRiver’s spokesman said it had received planning permission for Co-op stores on around 20 pub sites so far, but there had been some refusals, notably in Dudley. “These refusals were against professional planning officer advice for approval and we’re currently considering our options which includes appeals to the planning inspectorate,” he said.

“It’s always been NewRiver’s intention to keep viable pubs running where possible. In fact, many of the licensees have welcomed the siting of new convenience stores alongside their pubs as this will create a ‘community hub’ where they can benefit from increased footfall.”

A Co-operative Group spokesperson added: “We’re not in the business of closing pubs. Such decisions are taken by the owners, often because of challenging trading conditions.

“Where we can, we’ve worked with developers to build convenience stores within pub car parks to enable successful pubs to continue trading and we also seek to work with communities to identity their needs in order to provide jobs and services locally.”

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