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Saturday, 20 December 2014

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Cockermouth hoping for investment boost after planning vote

Cockermouth is in line for an investment boom as businesses line up to move into the town following changes to its planning laws.

Jonty Chippendale photo
Jonty Chippendale

History has been made in Cockermouth as, for the first time in the country, business owners and residents will be able to make some changes to their properties without seeking planning permission.

Businesses have welcomed the results of last week’s referendum, which ruled that Neighbourhood Development Orders will be introduced, and are already looking to the future after months of hardship in the town.

A cafe culture is to take over Market Place, as tables and chairs can be automatically placed on the pavement and businesses transformed into restaurants, bars and cafes.

A number of businesses are already planning to move to the area, to take advantage of the relaxed planning laws.

Jonty Chippendale, who owns The Toy Shop on Main Street, is positive this will lead to good things for the town. He said that anything which gives decision-making back to the people is to be encouraged.

“I think it will be good for business and it will aid the long-term recovery for Market Place,” he added. “I know of businesses that are planning to relocate there and I’m sure it will create a cafe culture in Market Place which will be very nice as it’s a lovely place to go outside on an evening.

“This year has been a struggle but once we get it out of the way it will be better.”

Elaine Balmer, who has two businesses in Market Place – Lily & Co and Indigo Lounge – called the neighbourhood orders a “fantastic idea”.

“The pavements in Market Place were made that wide for that purpose (table and chairs),” she said. “I think it will attract more businesses to come into town.”

“Cockermouth is a beautiful town centre and it just needs to be embraced. We have got so much going on in the Market Place, teashop, galleries, a bistro, restaurant – it could be a beautiful cafe culture up there.”

Both Mr Chippendale and Mrs Balmer said they hoped the businesses would be considerate of residents’ feelings.

“Cockermouth has had a very difficult five years since the floods and I don’t know how much more it can take,” added Mrs Balmer.

As well as the changes for Market Place much-needed housing will be created in the town, as flats will be allowed above commercial premises; business owners will also be able to change their shop fronts and new windows and doors can be installed on a building inside the conservation area.

Andy Walsh, owner of The Coffee Kitchen and the chairman of the town’s chamber of trade, thinks some businesses will be in favour as it will be a little easier to get things done.

“However, there also have to be safeguards in place to ensure that the new, open system isn’t abused,” he added. “But, as a general rule, if this speeds up the process and allows local businesses to get on with developing their work, it has to be welcomed.”

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