A plan to demolish shops and replace them with 48 flats and six retail units in a town’s main shopping street have been thrown out by councillors.
Malhi Developments had been told by council officers that their plan for the centre of Bletchley, met Milton Keynes Council planning rules despite offering only 33 parking spaces when its own guidelines would normally call for 151.
But councillors took a very different view at Thursday’s Development Control Committee, when they voted to throw out the plan for 55-65 Queensway. They said they thought it would send a signal to developers that they were not serious about their own parking policies.
“This will do nothing for the future of Bletchley,” said Cllr Mick Legg. “It gives it absolutely nothing. It is an awful application and I think we should refuse it as quickly as we can.”
Cllr Allan Rankine (Cons, Bletchley Park) said: “The number one issue in Bletchley is parking.” He described how the town was already suffering from irresponsible parking.
“The ignoring of parking policies must stop,” he said. “You must reject it.”
The plan would also have seen the replacement of several shops, including a big Home Bargains store which councillors said was an anchor store and important to the retail life of Bletchley.
Delia Shephard, the clerk of Bletchley and Fenny Stratford Town Council, said the parking problems already block buses while pavement parkers cause issues for pedestrians.
“Parking provision is not enough, there has been no retail impact assessment and it would reduce the high street offer,” she said.
The applicant’s agent, Rachel Wakelin, said the site did not need to have more parking spaces because there is already “sufficient capacity” in the town’s car parks.
“It will provide a positive benchmark for the development of Queensway,” she said. She added that a retail impact assessment was not required on the site and the replacement shop units could be combined, if a retailer like Home Bargains wanted to stay in the town.
MK Council senior planning officer Elizabeth Verdegem said the issue of parking was “finely balanced” but highways officers did not object to the plan. “Mixed use developments are encouraged by policy,” she added.
But committee chairman Cllr John Bint (Cons, Broughton) said he was “deeply concerned” by the proposal. “It is 80 per cent short of our parking requirement.”
Cllr Ric Brackenbury (Lib Dem, Campbell Park & Old Woughton) said he thought the scheme was “superficially very attractive, but pull beneath the surface and there are so many problems.
“There is no way I am supporting this.”
Cllr Andrew Geary (Cons, Newport Pagnell North & Hanslope) said he was getting fed up of seeing planning applications recommended for approval when they were not complying with policy.
“It’s happening all the time and it shouldn’t be just because we’ve got a bus station close by.”
Cllr Pauline Wallis (Lab, Central MK) said: “I really like Bletchley but I don’t shop there any more because I can’t park there.”
Councillors voted unanimously to refuse the application.