Empty Wisbech shop that’s set to become a house could have major implications for future

IT may only measure 54 square metres but 8 Hill Street, Wisbech, could mark a watershed in reducing the size of the town’s shopping area.

Earlier this year council leader Alan Melton predicted that in Wisbech for the town to remain viable “the shopping centre will probably have to contract”.

Now councillors have given substance to his view by agreeing – against the recommendation of officers - for the empty bookshop in Hill Street to become a house.

Subject to conditions, Fenland District Council planning committee approved the change of use even though they were warned it could have serious consequences for retailing in the town. The shop has been empty since September 2010.

In a report drawn up by officers the committee was told that the introduction of housing into Hill Street “is considered to give rise to adverse impacts in relation to the vitality and viability of this area”.

Furthermore, said officers, with little by way of “outdoor amenity space”, the housing would give rise to a development which fails to produce a good enough standard for future occupiers.

“Introduction of a residential use would punctuate the continuous shopping frontage and make the street less attractive to shoppers,” warned officers.

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As a consequence shoppers “may cease to venture all the way along the street”.

They argued that councillors had accepted this opinion earlier this year when refusing a similar application for 6 Hill Street.

The report said: “The change of use would be the first on the southern side of the street and could be seen as a precedent and encourage further changes which would be difficult to resist.”

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