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Gloucestershire Business News

EXCLUSIVE Cotswold shop in home conversion bid

A former Cotswold bike sales and repair shop may become part of a bigger conversion project for five accommodation units - but neighbouring retail opposition looks likely.

An application made to Stroud District Council this week from Cabot Design for its premises in Long Street, Wotton-under-Edge, comes in the wake of several retail closures in the town this year.

Back in April, reported on the Pandemic-driven decision of KOM Cycling, which shared some of Cabot's space on the building's ground floor, to shutter its business .

And on Wednesday this week, The Collective, opposite the former bike shop in Wotton-under-Edge's Long Street, also signalled its intention to close down, later this month .

The downward direction of retail business in the town was also compounded by the exit of Lloyds Bank  from the town's shopping hub in August. The bank's closure left the Cotswold market town with no external free-use cashpoint, although nearby Bear Street Garage has now stepped in to offer a charge-free service point from its forecourt shop.

Listed Grade II in 1952, 14 Long Street has a frontage for retail space and has been used as offices before permission was recently given for use as a bicycle showroom with a servicing area.

In line with the proposal from Cabot Design through Dursley-based agent Elevation One Building Design, the former shop would become a ground floor "accessed from the main door to the front keeping the traditional access in use".

The agent added: "The proposal site is within a Conservation Area of Wotton Under edge. It is just outside of the main street frontage."

In all, five units are proposed for the address, which has off-street access for car parking.

NPPF paragraph 193, says the agent, states that "When considering the impact of a proposed development on the significance of a designated heritage asset, great weight should be given to the asset's conservation (and the more important the asset, the greater the weight should be). This is irrespective of whether any potential harm amounts to substantial harm, total loss or less than substantial harm to its significance".

"It's considered that the proposals result in less than substantial harm but will rather provide a measure of balance and will enhance and positively contribute to this area of the conservation area."

But remaining shop owners in the town are wary of further loss of retail frontage.

Gareth Kitchen, owner of Cookability, the nearby kitchen supply shop he has run for 23 years, says he is fearful approaching planning reform from Levelling Up Minister Michael Gove would make such bids harder to resist.

He said: "Michael Gove's reform is likely to make change of use into a free for all. It appeals to a certain section of the public, but less control over how we safeguard our high street spells a devastating outcome."

Wotton has already seen "haphazard loss" of retail that eats into the core area, he added.

"We might have to accept some losses as on adjoining streets Market Street and Church Streets, but the main street needs to be protected. We've seen £4m going into Merrywalks in Stroud, but with the focus from GFirst LEP and money going to bigger areas of population, the lack of support for small-town retail like here and Forest of Dean is sucking the life blood out of us."

Mr Kitchen said his business had become the second kitchenware shop in the UK to embrace e-commerce: "Online created five to six jobs here for us, plus couriers, but then Amazon diversified from books and CDs in 2008, draining the spend from shoppers to off-shore tax avoiders."

He added: "We now do nothing online, but our business is built on offering lots of different services. We're told that we all need to offer more on an "experience" to protect the high street, but the quangos and authorities don't realise what we are up against. They're in cloud cuckoo land."

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