Shopkeepers’ victory as Gosport flat plans scrapped

Taxpayers forking out millions in legal costs

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PLANS to convert two former shops into flats have been rejected after more than 100 people objected.

Councillors from Gosport Borough Council’s planning board refused permission for two two-bedroom apartments to be put in a building in Portsmouth Road in Lee-on-the-Solent.

The building is part of a small shopping parade in the town.

The vacant shops used to house a post office and general store and a pet shop.

The council received 74 letters of objection and a petition full of additional signatures.

People had raised concerns about the lack of shops, which they felt could make the parade unviable and threaten the future of the neighbourhood centre.

Shirley Knowles, owner of the Top Knot hair salon, handed in a petition with more than 100 signatures to the council.

She said: ‘I’m absolutely delighted that the council has come through and that it will remain as shops which is what we want for the area.

‘We desperately need something up this end and we are hoping for a convenience store with things like bread and milk.

‘We need to keep it a bit more vibrant.

‘A lot of the people around here are elderly.

‘It’s a long way to the town centre when you’re elderly.

‘I hope that we can get a shop in there now.’

She said it was important to keep the road commercially viable.

‘The fish and chip shop next door does well – people are always queuing out the door.

‘And we’ve got the pub across the road.

‘There are lots of people coming and going all the time.

‘So I am pleased that it will get used.

‘It was nice to hear all the councillors say that it was a vibrant place in Lee and that lots of people would use the premises.

‘They all had nice things to say, so I’m excited.’

Councillor Mark Hook, leader of the council, said it was important that communities had access to local shops.

‘We need local shopping areas,’ he said.

‘While it’s not a planning consideration I don’t believe that the landlords have marketed it hard enough.

‘We would want to see them retained as retail.

‘Lee-on-the-Solent is a small community.

‘People appreciate the differences and the boutique-style shops that can go in there.

‘As a community they support each other.

‘Lee people do shop in Lee and support these small retailers.’

Planning officers recommended that the application was turned down because the loss of retail space would harm other shops in the area.

They also said it would reduce services for the nearby community.

Nobody from the firm behind the plans, PMC Construction, wanted to comment.