Letter - Is the council acting in the best interests of the city centre?

WE are the landlords of 17 Northgate, Wakefield, a shop unit which has been actively marketed for the last two years with little interest forthcoming from retailers following the opening of the Trinity Walk shopping centre.

We were delighted to read the letter in which Coun Denise Jeffery stated that the council was doing everything it could to help the occupation of vacant units within Wakefield city centre.

We applied for a change of use to A2 office use, having received interest from a firm of bookmakers and a firm of estate agents, both of whom were going to create between six and eight new jobs for the city centre.

We had obtained the planning officers’ recommendation for approval when the application went to committee on October 18 for a decision.

We were wholeheartedly dismayed when, despite the recommendation for approval, the planning committee refused the application.

Councillors stated that they did not want another closed shop frontage despite many retailers (including the previous occupiers TDF) having these, including Marks and Spencer, Debenhams and HMV.

We had also suggested a condition be included that we have to provide an open frontage, but this was ignored. Presumably the councillors prefer an empty frontage?

The application was refused on the basis of ‘vitality and viability’ of the town centre. In our view we had perfectly acceptable town centre uses for the premises which would bring new jobs to the city centre - how is refusing this application helping the ‘vitality and viability’ of the town centre? It is little wonder why the Sony Centre closed and decided to relocate to Leeds.

I think the question must be raised as to how in the light of this decision is the council acting in the best interest of the city centre?

We are trying our best to get as many of our empty units let in the city centre and had anticipated help not hindrance from the council.

I am left to believe that the councillor in the previous letter was preaching one thing and sadly doing another.

We think that the council’s approach, which was against their officers’ advice, has ensured this shop unit remains vacant and leaves us very fearful of the future of Wakefield city centre, not to mention the potential jobs which have now been lost.

David M Woodhead

Secretary, Woodhead Investments & Development Services Ltd