FENLAND planning committee went against the recommendations of planning officers and a group of concerned March businesses on Wednesday to approve plans for two new eating establishments in the town.
Officers felt approving the plans for the premises in Broad Street would affect the vitality of the town centre due to the number of non-retail units, but the message from councillors was clear: “Fenland is open for business.”
They voted unanimously to approve a plan for Dominos Pizza to open a franchise in the unit currently occupied by Thing Me Bobs. A majority of ten councillors voted in favour of approving a plan to convert the former Cancer Research charity shop into a cafe.
Cllr Fred Yeulett, who is not a member of the planning committee, spoke in favour of the cafe application and said: “Fenland’s catchline is open for business, but how can we be open for business if we’re refusing business?”
Cllr Peter Murphy said that although they would all like to see big name retail come to the area’s town centres, it was not going to happen.
Richard Unwin, the agent for Dominos, spoke to councillors and said Thing Me Bobs’s lease expired at the end of April and they had no prospective tenant interested. Likewise, the Cancer Research unit has been empty for over a year and the only interest has been from the cafe owner.
But the decision did not go down well with the other March eateries – who had submitted petitions asking for the applications to be refused – who feel their concerns were not listened to.
Tracey Akcan, from March Kebab and Pizza, spoke to the committee on both applications and said existing eateries in the town risk losing business and could potentially face closure if the plans were approved, but the committee said competition is not a planning issue and therefore cannot form the basis for a refusal.
Paul Burton from Muller Cafe also spoke and told members he was working two jobs and opening his cafe seven days a week to make ends meet.