Businesses and residents object to plans for Pets at Home outlet store in storage warehouse

By Zoë Uglow   |   Reporter   |
Wednesday 25th May 2016 8:00 am
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TAVISTOCK residents, organisations and business owners have raised objections to plans to turn a warehouse on Westbridge Industrial Estate into a Pets at Home outlet.

The team behind Tavistock Business Improvement District (BID) and other shop owners are concerned that, should the chain get the go-ahead to open a store at the estate, it could set a precedent for other businesses to move to other locations, having a knock-on effect to the town centre.

The planning application, to change the use of the former Fairway Furniture warehouse from class B8 (storage and distribution) to A1 (retail), was submitted by Harding and Sons Ltd to West Devon Borough Council (WDBC) in April.

The application includes retail with ancillary pet grooming and pet services, external alterations to building and site layout including car parking amendments, the creation of two customer entrances and associated works.

Despite concern that the development will have a negative impact on the town centre, Tavistock Town Council supported the plans when the proposal was referred to them for recommendation.

The window of objection for the proposal has recently been extended to June 16 to allow local business owners to share their concerns.

Tavistock BID manager Lisa Piper said: ‘We need people to be aware of this, it seems to have gone under the radar. The concern is that if the warehouse has a change of use for A1 retail, it then poses a threat to set a precedent for other units to change use for retail. It could be highly detrimental to the town centre. In a town and climate where things are fragile, it could be a big problem. We want people who are against this to be aware of how they can object and make their objections known.’

WDBC has already received several letters of objection, including a letter from BID chairman Tony Whitehead on behalf of Tavistock BID.

The letter read: ‘We strongly urge the borough council to reject this application for a number of extremely important reasons. It is considered the proposal will result in significant adverse effects on the vitality and viability of the town centre and will reduce business confidence in further investment in properties within the town centre.

‘The trading performance of the town centre has never been weaker. The town’s economy has been in decline for several years, and despite the significant efforts by many organisations – including the BID – trading performance continues to deteriorate.

‘The plight of the high street has been extremely well documented along with proposed solutions. The BID has tried hard to work collaboratively with other organisations (locally and nationally) and imaginatively to stem this decline.’

The letter said that there had been a drastic number of shop closures within the last 12 months and trading performance had plummeted almost month on month compared to previous years. Confidence from the vast majority of businesses has hit an all-time low.

Traders were recording a significant reduction in footfall into their businesses, sales revenues had been severely impacted by between 15-40% and a corresponding decline in profitability of between 25-60%.

A study had been commissioned to gain a more detailed examination of trading performance across the town’s businesses. The results of this survey would be available at the end of June 2016.

Local business owners are also concerned that the two current pet shops in Tavistock might not be able to compete against a Pets at Home outlet.

Neil Worth a local business owner said in a objection letter to WDBC: ‘I feel this is not fitting with Tavistock’s image as a destination for independent shopping. It’s another faceless generic corporation with no extra draw to the town. Tavistock is well catered for with two family run independent pet shops, both offering something different.

‘Both have been here for many years being passed down the generations. Both employing local people spending money locally. Both I fear would close down as not being able to compete with Pets at Home and the high rent and rates.’

Debbie Walsh, the owner of Tavistock Pet Emporium, said: ‘I think it is economically not viable for the town. In the strategic plan for the planning application, Pets at Home have said they will be doing, I think it’s around, £2 or £3-million in turnover per year. The only way they can do that is if the other pet shops don’t have any turnover at all and in the same area as the proposed shop there is Rons Pet Supplies, Lidl and Patch and Acre and they all sell pet food.

’What mainly bothers me is that in the plans they are mainly showing it as a retail park. Footfall is already low in town at the moment – for my shop being in the town we depend on footfall. If people can park out of the town and go to other stores they will.

‘We just have to look at Launceston – they have a retail park and now the town is a bit ramshackled. Plymouth Road can’t take any more traffic either, the congestion problems are bad enough!

‘For me it’s not so much about it being Pets at Home. We are cheaper than Pets at Home and can fight them – it’s because it’s a retail park. If it was any other shop going in there I would feel the same and be against it. We just don’t want it.’

The agent of the developer behind the Pets at Home proposal was approached by the Times but unavailable to comment before deadline.

To see the plans for yourself visit www.westdevon.gov.uk/searchlanding and enter the planning reference number 0971/16. This portal can also be used to show support or objection for the plans.

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