COUNCILLORS have narrowly approved plans to convert a former pub into a Co-op and homes despite fears it could force local shopkeepers out of business.

South Gloucestershire Council development management committee voted by 5-4 votes to grant permission for the new store, a house, three flats and a bungalow at the Live and Let Live pub in Frampton Cotterell.

Members had deferred the decision at the previous meeting in October to get more information about the likely impact on nearby shops, which concluded the proposals would not significantly harm the local centre or lead to any nearby shops closing.

Village shop would 'not survive' says owner 

But Edwina Pennell, who manages the family-run Village Roots Budgens shop and post office in Coalpit Heath, told the committee that the store would not survive if the plans went ahead.

She said: “This store means everything to us – our whole family relies on it.

“This is our livelihood. We don’t have pensions, we’ve always believed we would be running that store.

“We used to be supplied by the Co-op. When we saw their application we decided to leave them because we were so disgusted that they had decided to try to open a store in direct competition to us.

“It is clear they have always wanted to take our post office and our store away from us and carry on in our place, returning to the store they abandoned 34 years ago.

“It has been incredibly stressful running the post office and it has taken us six years’ learning, making mistakes, to build it into the vibrant post office it is today which is very important to our residents.

“Co-op clearly know that if they move in, the post office will close.”

Gazette Series: The Live and Let Live pub in Frampton CotterellThe Live and Let Live pub in Frampton Cotterell (Image: Google)

Hundreds sign petition against plans 

Local planning consultant Stuart Rackham said a petition opposing the development in Clyde Road had been signed by 470 residents.

He said assessments of the retail impact in the report to the committee were flawed and exposed the council to the threat of a judicial review.

Ward Cllr Jon Lean (Lib Dem, Frampton Cotterell) said the report “paints a bleak picture” for shopkeepers and that the decision should be delayed again because key information was still missing.

But Tristan Hutton, partner at Alder King property consultants in Bristol, representing the applicants, said council officers agreed the new store would not lead to the closure of an existing shop.

He said that in the unlikely event that the post office closed, the Co-op would open one at its new outlet.

Gazette Series: The floor plan for the conversion of the pub in Frampton Cotterell - photo by Pure Town PlanningThe floor plan for the conversion of the pub in Frampton Cotterell - photo by Pure Town Planning

Plans approved 

South Gloucestershire Council senior planning officer Suzanne D’Arcy told members there was a “real chance” the developers would launch an appeal, with the authority liable for full costs, if it was deferred again because the decision deadline had passed and “three viability reports all say the same thing”.

Cllr June Bamford (Conservative, Hanham) said: “I would have preferred housing there and not a retail outlet.

“I do understand the concerns, it’s their livelihoods they’re worried about, but I don’t think any planning inspector would agree with refusal.

“We cannot defer it again. We have to bite the bullet and make our decision.”

Cllr John Bradbury (Labour, Bradley Stoke South) said: “I know this development is going to hit the people who run other shops in the area but – I hate to say this, it pains me to say this – if there is competition set up then that is the free market in operation.”

There were 76 objections from residents, with 20 letters of support.

The pub has been vacant since shutting four years ago and the report said reopening it was not viable.

The report to committee on Thursday, December 7, said: “While it is accepted that the closure of an existing shop cannot be ruled out in the long term.

"It is difficult to justify that this would be the direct result of the proposed convenience store.”