Despite passionate opposition from the town’s district councillors, the former Long Sutton Indoor Bowls Club is set to become a retail warehouse.
The bowls club closed its doors for the final time in April and owners Lincolnshire Co-operative sought a change of use for the building, applying for planning consent to South Holland District Council, so an unnamed business - now believed to be a factory shop - can move in.
At South Holland District Council’s planning commitee meeting on Wednesday, Long Sutton district councillors Laura Eldridge, Jack Tyrrell and Chris Brewis all voiced considerable concerns, passed to them by residents, that opening a seven-day-a-week retail operation on the site would threaten the many independent shopkeepers in the town.
Coun Eldridge told the meeting: “I have to agree with the independent traders in Long Sutton. We have a lot of independent shops and I am concerned that by adding a national store this will detract fromthe town centre.
Coun Tyrrell added: “It’s an added pressure on our little town - I am worried about it.”
Concerns were also voiced by Coun Chris Brewis about the significant rise in business rates which traders are also struggling to cope with.
However, both Coun Harry Drury and Coun Jim Astill took the view that business changes over time and that the shopkeepers should be looking at what they can do to promote their own businesses, rather than hoping to maintain the status quo.
Coun Drury said: “The reason we have lost somany indendent shopkeepers is the world wide web.
“If big businesses such as this come into a market town, shopkeepers should be looking at a way to embrace it and see how they can use it for the benefit of their own business.
Coun Astill agreed: “Businesses have got to learn to adapt”, while Coun Rodney Grocock added: “The world moves on. People will shop wherever they want to shop and the local shops have to evolve as well.
“They have to find a way to market themselves better.”
Committee chairman Coun Roger Gambba-Jones sternly directed councillors that they could not make a decision “ on gut instinct”, adding “that’s not the way to do planning.”
After a lengthy debate, councillors voted 7-5 to approve the application, with one member abstaining.