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Controversial Marston's pub plans put on hold

By Leek Post and Times  |  Posted: July 23, 2014

By Abbey Buxton

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PUB chain Marston's Inns and Taverns has reaffirmed its commitment to opening a venue in Leek after plans to build on a site in the town were deferred by council officials.

The company's application to construct a pub and restaurant close to the new Sainsbury's store on the former Churnet Works in Macclesfield Road was due to be decided by a planning committee last week.

However, the proposal, which was expected to be given the green light by Staffordshire Moorlands District Council despite opposition from residents, businesses and Leek Town Council, was deferred at the last minute.

The wider issue of the redevelopment of the Churnet Works has now been described by a senior councillor as a "shambles".

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A spokesman for the agent dealing with the plans explained the site of the planned pub already has planning permission for housing.

He said: "There is an agreement with the original application by Sainsbury's called a Section 106 Agreement, which means that there are certain obligations in terms of what needs to happen with regards to any redevelopment of the site.

"This deferral is in connection with an application to vary that agreement, which has been submitted and is all part of the same application which will go back to the planning committee for a decision.

"The solicitors for the council wanted to ensure that's all in order and properly assessed and moving forward, so they wanted more time."

A spokesman for Marston's added: "Following a full recommendation for approval the local authority has deferred the application to a later committee hearing yet to be confirmed.

"We are keen to point out that we are still very much committed to the proposal that will serve the local community generating new jobs and investment."

However, Councillor Linda Malyon, a member of the planning committee, said the whole Sainsbury's development had raised concerns.

The Post & Times has previously reported how part of the original planning permission for the blocking of the right turn from Church Street into St Edward Street had been shelved.

Last month, a plan by Ascent, a joint venture by Your Moorlands housing association and the district council, to build homes on part of the Churnet Works were withdrawn after traces of asbestos were found.

Mrs Malyon said: "Taking the whole issue of the development site and the effect it has had on Leek is a complete shambles from the very beginning, and it is continuing to be so. It has all been handled very badly by all."

More than 1,000 people signed a petition against the Marston's development and Leek Town Council recommended refusal on the grounds of inadequate parking, access issues, the loss of houses originally planned, and inadequate evidence of research into other locations.

Janet Burgess, tenant of The Dyers Arms pub in Macclesfield Road, said: "This has given us more time to get more objections submitted against these plans, which are not needed, whereas affordable homes are."

Charlotte Atkins, Staffordshire county councillor for Leek South, said that if Marston's was to succeed, losing more affordable homes on the site would be a "disaster".

She added: "If this withdrawal means the district council is thinking again, that's very good news and I intend to speak against the application.

"Part of the planning agreement for Sainsbury's was the building of accommodation on the site, and we've already seen Ascent withdraw because of asbestos contamination.

"The agreement re-designating it as a pub instead of affordable homes does not have the same planning gain. The Marston's development is out of town so would draw visitors away from the town centre.

"Our town centre plan states clearly that we want activity in the town centre, not on the outskirts. We have some good community pubs in the vicinity and Marston's would be much better looking at the Barnfields site, alongside the Cornhill development."

No-one from Sainsbury's or Staffordshire Moorlands District Council were available for comment.

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