By Lachlan Leeming, Local Democracy Reporter
Plans which will see Welling pub the Lord Kitchener converted into a convenience store and homes have been approved unanimously.
Bexley council’s planning committee gave the green light for the application to transform the listed pub, which has remained vacant since its closure in September 2018.
It will see a Co-Op store move into the ground floor of the former pub, while a new two-storey extension will be added at the rear of the building to fit 10 two-bedroom and nine single-bed units.
Discussing the proposal, councillors praised plans for eight units of affordable housing which would be included on the site.
However, they also expressed concerns over a lack of outdoor space at the property for residents to use, as well as bemoaning the permanent loss of a public house.
Councillors were told independent reports showed a pub at the site was unviable – citing low footfall, high overheads and nearby competition as the reasons.
The proposal received 79 objections from members of the public – with several community members speaking at the meeting and voicing their concerns a new shop at the site would potentially drive other firms out of business.
However, the applicant said the addition of a new, small convenience store would benefit local residents and secure the future of the listed building, as well as creating 10 full-time and 15 part-time jobs.
However, Cllr June Slaughter voiced several concerns over the plans, slamming a lack of outdoor space.
“I think it’s appalling that no amenity space whatsoever is provided for on this development,” she said.
She said that, although the lack of amenity space was made up for by additional floor space in the units, outdoor space was still an “essential requirement for enjoyment of one’s home and enhancement of one’s quality of life”.
While a park was nearby, she said someone wanting to sit outside with a “coffee or newspaper” wouldn’t “necessarily want to traipse around to a park”.
She also stated public houses were “no longer the draw they were in the past for the community”.
“The building is listed and is a presence in the vicinity and I feel the proposed use is a reasonable solution given the public house is said to no longer be viable.”
Cllr Nicola Taylor praised the affordable housing as “absolutely wonderful,” but echoed concerns over the lack of amenity space.
“We need affordable housing but we need it to be good quality housing that people want to live in…lockdown proves the actual need for amenity space in people’s residences…it’s something we can’t dismiss,” she said.
Council officers said that planning guidance still suggested the plans were acceptable, which was good enough for members who voted it through unanimously.
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