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Shops plan in Stowmarket is refused

Baldwin's department store, in'Tavern Street, Stowmarket. 'Picture: Mark Westley.
Baldwin's department store, in'Tavern Street, Stowmarket. 'Picture: Mark Westley.

A plan to turn the ground floor of a department store which has been part of Stowmarket life for decades into smaller shops was refused on Tuesday.

However, Mid Suffolk District Council is yet to make a decision on a second planning application to convert the first floor and part of the ground floor of Baldwin’s of Stowmarket into three one-bedroom flats.

The 6,000 sqft shop, at 2-4 Tavern Street, has traded as a department store for many years, formerly under the East of England Co-operative brand before becoming Baldwin’s in November 2010.

Kevin Baldwin, managing director of Baldwin’s, said there were no plans to close or scale down the shop and that it was ‘open for business as usual’.

“Our landlord has a clause in the lease that does allow him to take back the smaller part of the store if he chooses to do so after giving us a notice period, which he has to date not done,” he added.

A planning refusal notice, issued by Mid Suffolk District Council on Tuesday, said the Stowmarket Area Action Plan 2013 stated the council would maintain the number of shops in the town’s main shopping area, provided the availability of larger retail spaces was not reduced as a result of sub-division.

“The proposal will split an existing single retail unit into two smaller units,” it said.

“The proposal is therefore refused on the grounds of its adverse impact upon retail provision within Stowmarket town centre.”

Stowmarket Town Council had opposed both planning applications on the grounds loss of retail space would be ‘to the detriment of the whole of the town’, that large retail units should be preserved and that approving the application could set a precedent.

The Open for Business team also objected to both applications, saying: “In isolation they are unsupportable, but combined, the loss of the large format store in the primary shopping frontage is significantly damaging to the town centre offer.”

John Matthissen, district councillor, said there was always a need and demand for more housing.

The second application, which would see the first floor of the shop and a small part of the ground floor converted into three one-bedroom flats and associated access, is still being considered by planners.

A planning statement, by agents Phil Cobbold Planning, said the flats conversion would help to meet a need for low-cost housing in the town.

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