Bid to turn Penryn town centre shop into home
The latest step in a fight to stop the downfall of Penryn’s high street was announced this week, when an application to turn a shop into a house was rejected.
Earlier this month, the Packet revealed that Penryn now has the highest number of empty shops of any town centre in Cornwall. In an effort to turn this around, town councillors have vowed to try and protect commercial spaces and businesses wherever possible.
Over the summer, they recommended refusal on an application to convert 11 Higher Market Street - next to the old Rowe’s shop – into a “residential dwelling.”
Cornwall Council principal development officer Dan Mitchell said, when he wrote to Cornwall councillor for Penryn, Mary May, in July, that the scheme “would make an effective use of the unit without harming the vitality of Penryn town centre.”
Mrs Mary rejected his comments however and a further letter of objection from the town council sought to press their call for the high street to be protected.
By September Richard Marsden from planning consultancy Lauren Associates, acting on behalf of the applicant Linda Kitchen, had weighed in on the debate.
He criticised the town council’s calls for the shop’s retention, saying it was “unreasonable” for them “to seek to protect” a shop “that has not been used as such for some time.”
Mrs Kitchen said the town council’s opposition was “incredibly unfair,” adding that it had “helped to make the situation [in Penryn] worse by allowing Asda, Lidl and Sainsbury’s to trade near by.”
In her correspondence, she quoted figures from estate agents saying she could only expect to earn £3,500 each year in rent “at most,” with agents’ fees eating up £1,500 of that amount “up front”.
“The situation is terrible,” she said, “there are plenty of precedents for change of use for shops in Penryn. To refuse permission now, in this climate, having granted it many times before would be wholly inconsistent and damaging.”
Rob Redgrave, head of commercial at Miller Commercial estate agents, advised Mrs Kitchen that there would be “very little demand for a retail user for this unit.
“The main shopping area is the other side of the church and this stretch of road (between the church and the traffic lights) experiences a greatly reduced footfall, which is vital for retail use,” he said.
Penryn Town Council were unmoved by these protests however and called last week for the application to be referred to Cornwall Council’s Central Sub Area Planning Committee if Mr Miller, the case officer, refused to change his mind. He did not. On Wednesday night the application was refused by just one vote, with the chairman of the committee using his casting vote to sway the balance.
Mrs May welcomed the decision, saying: “It is about protecting the vitality of the high street and stopping the erosion of shops turning in to accommodation. “If it was a shop once there’s no reason why it can’t go back to being a shop again.”