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South Holland District Council’s planning committee told to ‘get real’ over decision to refuse plans for former Spalding department store

The future of a vacant department store will be decided later this week.

South Holland District Council’s planning committee will be debating whether to give the Lighthouse Pentecostal Church the go-ahead to convert the empty Coneys store in Spalding into a community hub.

The church had applied to change the use of the old Hills Department Store from retail to mixed use, comprising of ancillary retail, cafe, play space, offices, church, community meeting place and food bank.

Plans for Coneys will be decided later this week
Plans for Coneys will be decided later this week

The committee has been recommend to refuse the application on the grounds that the loss of retail space would ‘undermine the vitality and viability’ of Spalding town centre. The meeting will take place on Wednesday.

But this recommendation has sparked some reaction from readers who have told the council to ‘get real’ over the future of the town centre along with citing that Springfiels Leisure and Outlet Shopping were given the opportunity to come into town but refused.

Planners need to get real

Regarding the debate on the change of use of the department store and the council’s recommendation for rejection for the change of use, the question must be asked why there is little demand for the premises after almost a year of marketing the property, regionally and nationally.

There is a perception amongst the council, that retailers are queuing up to come into the town. Town centres around the country are losing shops and having to adapt.

But SHDC believe Spalding is different and there is demand. Can they demonstrate in the past five years what success they have in bring new retail to the town? Merkur were allowed to trade from a prime retail site despite public disapproval.

It is a fact that Springfields have been offered the premises to bring their offer into the town but they have refused. But if the area’s most successful retail operators do not believe that Spalding town centre is a viable location, how do SHDC expect others to do so?

I believe SHDC and the planning department need to get real. Town centres have to adapt and change, the high street of many years ago no longer exists and this is recognised by councils across the country. Spalding by nature of having an out of town centre on its doorsteps sees any possible interest by national retailers mopped up by Springfields.

If you were a retailer looking in the area, where would you choose? Spalding town centre or a clean, secure, safe environment, with a choice of retailers known by many, backed up with extensive marketing to drive footfall?

What is on offer with the Lighthouse Church ticks a lot of boxes, a coffee shop, a bookshop, a play area. If someone else came along offering any of these I believe these would be accepted.

I also believe that under current planning rules that a change to residential on the first floor at least is almost guaranteed, so this would involve a loss of retail too. Perhaps we could have another large building in the town centre standing empty and derelict too, to join Johnson Hospital, Bull & Monkey, the Sorting Office etc.

Unfortunately it is our council that has undermined the vitality and viability of the Spalding town centre.

Name and address supplied

We have enough empty shops

Regarding the planning permission for Coneys not being succinct with retail policies.

What are these policies?

Currently we have any amount of retail or potential retail space available in Spalding. Listed by previous usage we have

- Halifax

- Clintons Cards

- Former Calthrops

- Barclays

- Huges

- Argos

- Wilkos

I cannot see any major retail store moving into Coneys so the application by The Lighthouse would utilise the building and provide a community hub instead of having another empty building waiting to be vandalised.

The planning committee need to take a more positive and pro-active stance.

Craig Tulip

via email

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