Co-op plans for Brixworth supermarket face stiff resistance

By James Averill, Local Democracy Reporter

The Red Lion building in Brixworth

A number of Brixworth residents are up in arms over resurfaced plans to demolish an old pub building and replace it with a supermarket and post office.

Daventry District Council (DDC) planning officers have recommended the Co-op’s application, which would demolish the former Red Lion on Harborough Road, be given the green light by councillors when the planning committee meets on Wednesday (June 10).

A similar application was rejected last year by the planning committee and then upheld by a Planning Inspector after an appeal.

It was originally refused due to design quality and the ‘unjustified loss of an undesignated heritage asset’, but planning officers say the new application has ‘addressed the design issues’.

But objections have still been raised by Brixworth Parish Council, the steering group behind the Brixworth Neighbourhood Plan, Northamptonshire County Council’s highways teams on ‘safety grounds’, and 21 residents of the village.

An action group of residents fears the scheme will be passed through with ‘no serious understanding on the devastating impact’ it will have on the village.

“It appears the concerns of the residents are not being taken seriously, especially the detrimental impact this will have on the quality of life for those who live nearby. The considerable increase of traffic and car noise will cause disturbance to the locale, well into the night,” the group said in a statement.

“Even when the Red Lion was open, the local residents were not disturbed at closing time, as the small number of regulars to this village pub, didn’t drive and were respectful of the pub’s neighbours.”

They also questioned why a smaller application within 10 metres of the pub, submitted in 2015, was rejected by the Planning Inspector as it would result in ‘material harm to the living conditions of occupiers of nearby residential properties’, but that this issue had not been raised by officers.

The group added: “We fail to understand how this proposal, which is a much larger development, would not cause the same, but on a far larger scale. Has the planning law changed so much that the residents no longer matter?”

The parish council has also objected due to the design still not being in keeping with the area, and raised concerns over parking and potential obstructions from delivery vehicles.

In its written objection, the county council’s highways team shared similar concerns. It read: “If this proposed development is intended to replace the existing Co-op on Spratton Road then it is unlikely that this site will be large enough, particularly in respect of the parking and servicing for this proposed retail unit.

“The local highway authority objects to this planning application on both highway safety grounds and the likelihood of obstruction taking place on both the live carriageway and publicly maintained highway land and pedestrian footpaths.”

Despite dismissing the Co-op’s appeal in September, the Planning Inspector did consider that the rejected development would have provided sufficient parking, access and servicing; and would ‘bring economic benefits from future jobs connected to the retail use’. Some residents however said these findings were flawed, and did not ‘appreciate local circumstances’.

DDC officers also outlined how they felt the design had been improved from the previous scheme, writing: “Whilst the floor plan remains fundamentally the same, the shape and appearance of the elevations and roofs have changed significantly such that the building now more resembles a traditionally-built nineteenth-century parade of small shops.”

Although the application is being promoted as a new Co-op store for Brixworth, the Co-op is not the owner of the Red Lion site, and the council ‘could not stipulate that this would be specifically a Co-op store’.

A final decision is expected to be made when the council’s planning committee meets virtually this week. However, a number of residents on the action group claim they have tried to get a slot to speak at the virtual meeting ‘but to no avail’. The council has been contacted for comment.