Wagamama has won its planning appeal at the Planning Inspectorate, in its bid to open in Reigate.
The restaurant chain wants to set up at the former Edward Dean kitchen showroom on the ground floor of 33-35 Bell Street.
Last year Reigate & Banstead Borough Council turned down Wagamama’s bid to change the use of the premises from retail to restaurant, bringing a halt to the plans. The decision was chiefly down to that part of Bell Street already having less than 75% retail frontage against a local policy minimum of 80%.
The refusal proved controversial, with nearly 1,500 signing an online petition in favour of the Asian-style eatery coming to the town.
Wagamama appealed to the Planning Inspectorate, with its central point being that the borough’s local policies, set in 2005, hadn’t kept up with changes in planning policy and in particular the newer National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF).
The council disagreed, saying that its local policies were consistent with the NPPF.
Much was said in the papers about who had to show what: Wagamama said the council had to show what harm the plans would cause, while the council said Wagamama had to show the benefits justified an exception.
Now the planning inspector has approved the change of use, subject to conditions. The inspector concluded:
“Decisions must be made in accordance with the [council’s] development plan unless material considerations indicate otherwise. Whilst the proposed change of use conflicts with the detailed application of [the council’s local policies], on the evidence before me, it would conform to the broader aim of these policies which is to sustain and enhance the vitality and viability of Reigate.
It would also conform to the [National Planning Policy] Framework in that it would meet a leisure need in the town centre whilst, similarly, supporting the viability and vitality of the town centre.
The proposals’ conformity with the Framework is a material consideration.
Furthermore, my findings in respect of the specific location of the appeal site, the town of Reigate in general, and the scale of public support for the proposal are also material considerations.
Taken together the material considerations lead me to conclude that the proposed change of use would not harm the retail function of Reigate Town Centre and therefore indicate that it should be allowed.
Consequently the material considerations outweigh the development plan in this case. “
Among the other points mentioned in the decision:
- the longer frontage of the site is on Bancroft Road, which already has more of a leisure feel with the library and cinema
- only a narrow frontage is on Bell Street, so only a small amount of retail frontage is being lost there
- the restaurant use means shoppers are likely to extend their day in Reigate, and the use would also work well around the cinema in the evening
- only limited weight could be given to arguments that the site had been unsuccessfully marketed (informally) for retail since October 2015, because of a lack of evidence of that marketing
- whilst vacant, the unit is making no contribution to the town centre
- there was nothing before the inspector to show that a large retail unit was required at the site
- the local policies and the NPPF are not in conflict
The inspector added conditions – one of which is to limit the opening hours to 9AM – 11pm, which is less than Wagamama had got under a separate licensing decision.
Reigate.uk has this morning contacted the council, and Wagamama’s representatives, for comment. (*Update: the council has come back – see article.*)
Read the inspector’s decision (opens PDF)
Our previous Wagamama coverage, including the council decision and petition.
- Planning appeal 15/02290/CU/AP (decision and arguments s are under “Related documents”)
- Underlying planning application 15/02290/CU
- Successful licensing application 16/01/01091/LAPREM
- Partially approved/refused signage application 15/02291/ADV