Monday, October 1, 2012
We asked for you to have your say – and the people of Norwich have spoken.
Nearly four in five voters in a Norwich Evening News poll said that councillors got it wrong in one of the city’s biggest planning decisions for years.
Almost 1,000 readers had their say in just four days, with 79pc saying that proposals for a £122m Asda superstore development should have been given the go-ahead.
Norwich City Council leader Brenda Arthur said the vote demonstrated public anger at the passing up of a “one-off opportunity” to regenerate the area, while planning committee members again defended the decision as being in the best long-term interests of Norwich.
The plans would have seen an Asda supermarket built on the former Bally Shoe factory on Hall Road, along with other shops, community facilities, a gym, a pub and a 334-space car park.
The issue has been debated all week on the Norwich Evening News website, www.eveningnews24.co.uk, and on the letters page with commenters arguing both sides of the case.
Many have been frustrated at the apparent snubbing of employment opportunities and a chance to redevelop an area which has long laid derelict, with others praising the committee’s stance in the face of plans which went against the council’s planning guidelines.
Stephen Little, the Green city councillor who proposed the motion to reject the plans, said the committee had looked at the long-term impact of the development on the city, and conceded: “Sometimes you have to make difficult choices and they are not always the popular ones.”
He said: “It’s a choice between the politics of the short-term and the politics of the long-term.
“The buildings are going to be there for a long time so you have to think of the long term. That’s not always a popular choice.”
Discussion over the store had been “framed” by the debatable prospect of 400 new jobs in the city, clouding the fact the plans were “wildly off-brief” and could have opened the door for other developers to ignore planning guidelines, he added.
“It undermines the planning policy. If we were to stop others in the future offering a similar development they could then appeal and say ‘Asda have done it here, why can’t we?’ By doing that, you are creating a precedent.”
He said the plans had been “sprawling and car-based”, adding: “As we move to the future this is not the kind of city we can have.”
Ms Arthur said the vote results sent a clear message. She said: “This demonstrates the people think this was a one-off opportunity to help regenerate a part of the city that needs a boost.
“I’m sure there are people in that area of the city who want a better life for themselves and their families and this would have helped them.”
She said that accepting a larger-than-usual store against planning guidelines was justified because the economic considerations “outweighed” the planning concerns.
Ms Arthur added: “I don’t imagine we would want to replicate it across the city. The local community doesn’t have a huge number of shops, but it does have a huge need.
“I’ve had phone calls from parents saying it would be so much easier to shop there, and from young people who really want a job – and that’s in addition to all the extra community facilities.”
The plans were rejected by five votes to four on September 20, with all four present Labour members voting in their favour. Two Labour councillors were unable to attend through work commitments and illness, with no substitute available at short notice.
Was the city council’s planning committee right to turn down the plans for a new Asda superstore?
Yes 20.6pc (187)
No 79.4pc (721)