I’ve written about the building and the planning application several times before on these pages, and watched the webcast of the discussion in the meeting this afternoon with great interest.
There have been angry comments online in response to the decision today, reflecting the anger felt by residents of Union Terrace, alongside the chapel. Many of them spoke at the meeting, eloquently, in the public participation section near the start of the meeting. You can watch it all online on YouTube, on this link, or below (starting at 4:18).
This application was given around an hour and a half, firstly commented upon by the residents who had attended and registered to speak, who had 3 minutes each, then discussed by councillors, with information given by council officers.
Reading about decisions on planning applications can give the impression that these things are somehow rushed through, rubber-stamped. Not so. Watching the webcasts is an interesting and enlightening experience, as I’ve said before. As a neutral observer on this one — I can see the arguments for and against, but don’t feel strongly either way — I thought it showed a group of people trying to do their best to reach the right decision, based on what was in front of them.
The vote at the end was 5 for and 5 against, but Chair John Galvin used his casting vote, as is the Chair’s right, which meant the application was approved.
Those of us watching the webcast could hear the reaction of the local residents off-camera, then see them as they left the room, with one man clearly upset and angry, another having a word with the Chair, or rather several, not clear on the recording but I think I picked up the word ‘conscience’. And thought about what a difficult job it is being a councillor and having to make these decisions in front of people who are thinking about their own street, when you’re having to think about the bigger picture.
It’s upsetting and worrying when the landscape around us changes, but it’s something many of us are familiar with, having to adapt to. And it has to be said that many people in the local area didn’t object to the planning application, saw nothing much to object to, all things considered.
Beyond the immediate neighbourhood the plans for this building did provoke a lot of comment and concern. It clearly captured the public interest. Was this because it was a former place of worship? Or because its proposed redevelopment involves the introduction of one of those controversial (though clearly successful and well-used) local supermarket chains?
Many other people have adapted to having a local supermarket on the corner of their street, and the residents of Union Terrace face that prospect too. I hope it’s not as bad as they fear, and that this building in its new guise settles in on its corner when its doors are open and its accommodation occupied.