Controversial new Northamptonshire village shop in place of old pub may open 'early next year' after appeal win
'The Co-op is being co-operative at the moment, it's just a shame it could have happened a bit earlier'
A controversial new supermarket on the site of an abandoned pub in a Northamptonshire village could open early next year after being granted planning permission.
In November, the Planning Inspectorate allowed the Co-op Group's appeal against Daventry District Council's second rejection of the proposal for its Brixworth store five months earlier.
So the shop and the neighbouring Post Office on Spratton Road will be moving into a new building in place of the former Red Lion Inn on Harborough Road.
A Co-op spokesperson said the new shop could open early next year with the developer currently in the process of discharging conditions.
"Co-op continues to engage with local elected officials as its aim is to operate at the heart of local life and create a store with the range, choice and services that will provide access to food and a compelling offer to serve the community, conveniently," they added.
"The move will enable the Co-op to invest in the community, create a store which is fit for the future and safeguard local jobs with colleagues transferring to the new store once open.
"The store would also provide a long term home for the village Post Office."
The Co-op's proposal was first refused by the council's planning committee in 2019 due to its ‘unacceptable’ design and ‘insufficient' parking.
The Planning Inspectorate agreed it would cause ‘unacceptable' harm to the character and appearance of the Brixworth Conservation Area, in which the site is located, but dismissed the parking concerns.
In June, a the council's planning committee refused a revised scheme with a new design because it would harm the conservation area, despite being recommended to approve it by officers.
The Co-op appealed the decision again and this time the Planning Inspectorate found in its favour, saying the new building would 'enhance the character and appearance of the conservation area' in its report published on November 27.
Liberal Democrat councillor for Brixworth, Jonathan Harris, opposed the scheme over the location but is now trying to work with the Co-op to get the best deal for the village.
"I'm not saying I agree with it, it's never been the right location, but the way planning works, there isn't much we can do other than a judicial review which is costly and would probably end up with the same outcome," he said.
"So I'm taking a different stance to work with the Co-op and take a pragmatic approach to work with them to mitigate the impact and limit it's look and feel as much as possible so it blends in with the conservation area."
The new store will run on 100 per cent renewable electricity, include customer car parking and an improved range and choice of products, according to the Co-op.
Councillor Harris said the village is broadly in favour of a new shop as the Spratton Road one is too small and there are not enough parking spaces in the area, but not in place of the old pub.
The district councillor said he is working with them to resolve numerous issues, particularly to reduce the amount of cars that might park on the grass verges.
They have also discussed traffic calming measures like yellow lines and a pedestrian crossing, especially for care home residents who used the current store regularly before the coronavirus pandemic, he added.
But councillor Harris does foresee an issue with deliveries as the loading bay is due to be in the road, which is on a bend.
A lorry delivering goods to the Chinese takeaway hit the wall next to the pub the other day, he said, so that will have to be mitigated.
They have also made sure it will close at 10pm like the current store after it was initially planned to open until 11pm, while they hope not to have bright lights and adverts.
The biggest task though is repairing the relationship between the village and the Co-op after the supermarket's lack of consultation.
"I have done my best to keep connected to people what are right in proximity with it, I've tried to work with that group and hear what they have to say and relay that to the Co-op," councillor Harris said.
"But the damage has been done already and they're trying to rebuild that connection.
"I think it's worth saying the Co-op is being co-operative at the moment, it's just a shame it could have happened a bit earlier."
Councillor Harris said he is not sure what will replace the Spratton Road store but probably not another supermarket as it would have the same issues the Co-op has.
But he is concerned about the two units being left empty and becoming a new eyesore for the village.
For now the councillor is concentrating on representing the old pub's neighbours who will be most affected by the building work in the coming months.
"I think this is one of those things that will be painful while it's being torn down as the demolition will be tricky I suppose - that's the main thing that will impact residents as there are houses that back on to it," he said.
"So they're in for a bit of pain but hopefully in due course it blends in and becomes a part of the village but we're not there yet."