Controversial plans for a hot food takeaway in a Bedford borough village hinge on whether officers at the council can reach an acceptable legal agreement with the owner.
Applicant Osman Karandemir’s plan to change the use of one of his shop units in Bedford Road, Great Barford, to create the takeaway has sparked local concerns over a lack of parking, possible anti-social behaviour, and a smell from the kitchens.
Monday’s meeting of Bedford Borough Council’s planning committee heard how officers think a legal agreement between the council and the owner setting the opening hours of the businesses could ease local parking concerns.
The committee heard there are only 10 spaces to share out at the premises, which used to house a Mirrorspan store.
Councillors debated whether they should defer a decision until after a legal agreement had been prepared for signatures, so they could make sure that it does the job.
Cllr Alison Foster (Cons, Harrold ward) said, “I would rather wait and then decide it.”
Planning officers said they were aware of all the issues, and if it proved impossible to find an acceptable agreement, planning permission could then be refused by the committee.
Some councillors were also concerned that the council does not have the resources to enforce legal agreements.
Cllr Jim Weir (Cons, Kempston Rural) said, “How can it be enforced when we have 300 enforcement notices outstanding and three officers? It is almost impossible to do.”
But council officers lined up to advise the committee not to refuse the plan because they believe the council can’t keep up with enforcement.
Council development management chief Janine Laver said, “That is not a reason to refuse an application. It wouldn’t stand up at appeal.
“If you are going to go down that route then the council couldn’t pass any planning permissions.”
She added that the council’s legal officers would not ratify permission if they were not happy with it.
And Jon Shortland, the council’s chief officer for highways, transport, planning and infrastructure development, said, “We have a fully staffed enforcement team, the committee should not take that into account.”
When asked how the council would know if an agreement had been broken, the committee was told that local residents would alert the council.
The committee voted by seven to one to approve the change of use but only if a legal agreement can be reached. If an agreement can’t be reached then the committee could be asked to formally refuse the plan at a future meeting.
by David Tooley
Local Democracy Reporter