Swaffham: 15a Market Place: 3PL/2010/0707/LB (Agenda Item 8a)
Report of the Deputy Chief Executive.
The Town Council’s response to this application was tabled for Members. They were also given a copy of Counsel’s Advice (as a confidential document).
Mr Sharpe noted that he had been present at a meeting between Swaffham Town Council and the applicants.
The Principal Planning Officer (Major Projects) gave Members a brief refresh of the application details. The matter had been deferred to seek legal advice.
The Solicitor explained that Members were being asked to consider if the proposed changes to the listed building were acceptable. They were not looking at the use of the premises.
If Members were minded to grant permission for the changes to the building, they would not be granting permission for the use. According to the advice received from Counsel the proposed use as a funeral directors, was covered by the existing A1 use class of the premises. The use should therefore not be taken into account.
Mr Bishop, Town Clerk, said that they had drawn attention to the strength of local objection to the proposal at the previous meeting. The new Government intended to allow local people to have a greater say in decisions affecting their area. The Town Council had met with the applicants and suggested that there were more appropriate premises nearby. The Agent had originally claimed that no bodies would be kept on the premises overnight and that only the rear access would be used when moving bodies in and out of the building. However, at the meeting with the applicant it had been confirmed that up to three bodies would be stored overnight and that the front access might be used. The Town Council were horrified by this. It was not the right place for such a use. Planning authorities should grant permissions that made a positive contribution to the historic environment – if granted this permission would destroy the social and cultural heart of Swaffham.
Mr Sherwood, Ward Representative, understood the Committee’s position: however he read out an excerpt from proceedings in the House of Commons where the classification of funeral directors had been discussed and it had been stated that it was up to local planning authorities to decide if a proposal should fall within the shop class. Furthermore, he suggested that if bodies were to be stored on the premises, refrigeration would be needed.
For clarity, the Development Services Manager, advised Members that they were only being asked to consider an application for Listed Building Consent and that approval would not prejudice the Council’s position in relation to any other permissions that might be required.
Many Members considered that the proposed use was inappropriate but the Head of Legal Services advised that they would be acting unlawfully if they took the use of the building into account when making their decision.
A Member noted that given the level of public concern at this application it was a shame that no representative from the Applicant was present.
After further comments from Members about the effects of the proposal on the viability of Swaffham and particularly on the eatery immediately adjacent; on the Use Class classification; and on their inability to protect the people of Swaffham, it was agreed that the Development Services Manager should be asked to write to the applicants, clearly expressing Members’ feelings that this was not an appropriate site for the proposed use. However, it was:
RESOLVED that Listed Building Consent be granted subject to the amended plans and details supplied in respect of works to the building.