Bid to turn East Boldre shop into home is thrown out by New Forest National Park Association
THE owner of East Boldre’s village shop has had his bid to switch the building’s use to solely residential thrown out by the national park authority.
As reported in the A&T, Ian Evans had for several years tried to sell the site as a commercial property, and recently submitted a planning application to convert the building’s use to maximise the value.
This was despite an offer from a community group which wanted to buy the building and put in an application of its own to extend the ground-floor retail area to make the shop viable. This proposal was approved last month.
The residents on the East Boldre Community Stores (EBCS) management committee were boosted when a £250,000 grant was last week awarded from the government’s Community Ownership Fund to help acquire the store.
Mr Evans said in a letter accompanying his application that locals had “voted with their feet”, turning to online shopping, particularly since the pandemic.
His letter went on: “People do not come to the shop to meet – they come because they want to buy something, and some customers can be quite rude and want quick service.
“In over 20 years of running the shop I have never heard anyone say, ‘Let’s meet at the shop for a chat’.”
However, the NPA ruled in its decision notice that the shop was a “key community facility for which there is no suitable replacement, or existing similar facility, accessible to the community”.
It continued: “The proposed conversion would result in the loss of an existing employment site, which would be contrary to policy.
“In order to help safeguard the long-term future of the countryside, it is important to resist the cumulative effect of significant enlargements being made to rural dwellings.
“This proposal, taking into account a previous enlargement, would increase the floor space of the existing dwelling by more than 30%, and in doing so would add to pressures for larger extensions in the countryside.”
The NPA had received nine letters of support in relation to the application, stating the shop was no longer viable, and one letter of objection.
East Boldre Parish Council, one of whose members, Cllr Rebecca Gabzdyl, also sits on the community group’s committee, had recommended refusal of the application on the grounds it would result in the loss of a “valuable community asset relied upon by villagers”.
However, Cllr Gabzdyl, who declared a non-pecuniary interest in the application, did not vote on the matter.
Before voting on the application recommendation, Cllr Bev Hawker also declared a non-pecuniary interest, while councillors Michael Husband and Lynn Clark declared a “minor interest”.
As well as the grant, the community group has also received financial pledges from local residents totalling £150,000, said Mrs Gabzdyl.