Council concern over wider implications of Wagamama’s appeal win

 

Reigate & Banstead Borough Council says it agrees that Wagamama will bring benefits to Reigate, but is disappointed that the chain’s successful appeal could help pave the way for fewer shops, and more eateries, in the town.

Last year the borough’s planning committee refused Wagamama’s application to change the use of the former Edward Dean kitchen showroom from retail to restaurant, on the basis of local pro-retail policies.  In particular, that part of Bell Street was said to be down to less than 75% retail frontage, against a local policy minimum of 80%.

Wagamama appealed to the Planning Inspectorate, and last week an inspector decided that the council should have made an exception and allowed the change, because of the advantages the restaurant would bring.

On Friday the council’s Darren Williams, Neighbourhood Development Manager, said:

“The decision of the Inspector to allow the appeal for the premises to be occupied as a restaurant will bring to an end a period of uncertainty for the occupation of this unit.  The council had always recognised that the use as a restaurant would add to vitality and viability of Reigate town centre over and above a vacant unit.

Whilst we are pleased that the unit will be open again, we are disappointed that this decision potentially paves the way for more of the town’s existing shops to be lost to restaurant, cafe or take-away uses, rather than safeguarding a certain number of shops in the town as required by the policy at the heart of the appeal.”

Whether a retailer would have wanted the premises remains an unknown: both the council and the planning inspector noted a lack of evidence of marketing the site for retail.  Wagamama’s agent, JLL, argued that the site had been “informally” marketed since October 2015, and that retailers were unlikely to be interested in the site.

The Planning Inspectorate will also decide on whether the council will have to pay Wagamama’s costs in preparing its appeal.

Separately, the borough’s local polices, set in 2005, are  due to be replaced in 2018 with new versions, as part of the council’s Development Management Plan.  One initial consultation took place last year, and a further one will take place this summer, before sign-off from the council and a planning inspector.

 

Links

Read the planning inspector’s decision on Wagamama (opens PDF)

All our Wagamama coverage

Planning paperwork:

 

 

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