Agenda item

Planning Application DC/21/0427/FUL - Sports Direct Fitness, Easlea Road, Bury St Edmunds (Report No: DEV/WS/23/001)

Report No: DEV/WS/23/001


Planning application - change of use from gym (class E) to retail (class E commercial, business and service).


Planning application - change of use from gym (class E) to retail (class E commercial, business and service)


This planning application was originally referred to the Development Control Committee on 7 December 2022 as it proposed ‘major’ development and Bury St Edmunds Town Council had objected, as had Bury St Edmunds BID.


In addition, the consideration of the merits of the application involved complex policy matters relating to retail, employment and community/leisure facilities.


Members at the meeting of 7 December 2022 resolved that they were ‘minded to’ refuse planning permission, contrary to the Officer recommendation of approval. Accordingly, the Decision Making Protocol was invoked requiring a Risk Assessment report to be prepared which was presented to the Committee for their consideration.


Members resolved that they were minded to refuse because they considered the loss of the existing leisure facility would be contrary to policy DM42.


Officers were continuing to recommend that the application be approved, subject to a S106 Agreement and conditions as set out in Paragraph 33 of Report No DEV/WS/23/001.


The Principal Planning Officer advised the Committee that since the agenda papers were published a further 40 late representations had been received objecting to the proposal; these largely covered matters previously raised by objectors and which were briefly summarised to the meeting.


One further late representation had also been received which referred specifically to material planning considerations that the objector in question did not believe had been fully addressed in the report, and which the Principal Planning Officer verbally outlined for the Committee.


Speakers:    Elizabeth Hodder (member of Sports Direct Fitness, speaking on behalf of herself and fellow members) spoke against the application

                   Councillor Trevor Beckwith (Ward Member: Moreton Hall) spoke against the application


(Councillor David Palmer joined the meeting at 10.13am, at which point the Chair advised Councillor Palmer that he would be unable to take part in the voting on this item as he had not been privy to the presentation.)


Councillor James Lay addressed the meeting and informed the Committee that he had taken it upon himself to undertake two visits to the premises and he had been extremely impressed at the facilities on offer.


Councillor Ian Houlder explained that whilst he appreciated that the premises in question had previously had retail uses, in light of a growing population he considered it imperative that leisure facilities such as this were available to communities.


Other Members spoke against the proposal seeking determination and highlighted the importance of safeguarding the leisure facility, with particular reference made to the accessibility offered for those with disabilities.


A question was posed in respect of the premises being within a General Employment Area and the Service Manager (Planning – Development) provided further explanation.


Councillor Peter Stevens proposed that the application be refused as the loss of the existing leisure facility would be contrary to policy DM42. This was duly seconded by Councillor James Lay.


The Service Manager (Planning – Development) made reference to the points of concern also raised by Members in respect of the site being allocated for employment use and policies BV14 and DM30 and suggested that they too could be included as a reason for refusal, if Members were so minded. Councillors Stevens and Lay, as proposer and seconder of the motion, confirmed agreement.


Upon being put to the vote and with 12 voting for the motion and with 1 abstention, it was resolved that




Planning permission REFUSED, CONTRARY TO THE OFFICER RECOMMENDATION for the following reasons:


1)   Policy DM42 of the Joint Development Management Policies Document seeks to secure the provision of new open space, sport and recreation facilities and to protect and safeguard existing facilities from being lost to other uses or development. Policy CS14 enables financial contributions to be secured to mitigate the impact of new development. The change of use of the building from a gym to a retail use would result in the loss of a highly valued and well used leisure facility. The loss of this leisure facility will result in a deficit of swimming pool provision within West Suffolk. The proposed developer contribution would not provide immediate replacement provision in a suitable location to meet the needs of users of the existing facility. The proposal therefore conflicts with policy DM42 of the Joint Development Management Policies Document and policy CS14 of the St Edmundsbury Core Strategy; and

2)   The site falls within a general employment allocation under Bury Vision 2031 Document policy BV14. Policy DM30 of the Joint Development Management Policies Document 2015 seeks to protect employment sites, particularly where there is not sufficient supply of such sites and where evidence has not been provided that genuine attempts have been made to sell/let the site in its current use and that no suitable and viable alternative employment uses can be found or are likely to be found in the foreseeable future. Whilst the proposed change of use to retail would not result in the net loss of an employment unit (as the site is not currently within a B class employment use), there is demand for such employment sites. The condition imposed on the original consent to allow the change of use to a gym restricted it to that use only to ensure the appropriate future use of the site and prevent its loss to other non-employment uses. The site has not been marketed in its current use or for other employment uses. The proposal is therefore contrary to Joint Development Management Policy DM30 a and b and Bury Vision 2031 Document policy BV14.


(On conclusion of this item the Chair permitted a very short interval in order to allow the public gallery to empty.)


Supporting documents: