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Sunday, 21 December 2014

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Cumbrian town could get automatic go-ahead for cafes and restaurants

Cockermouth residents are likely to get the final say on introducing new powers to allow buildings to be transformed into cafes and restaurants without planning permission.

The town was selected to take part in a pilot project to introduce Neighbourhood Development Orders (NDO) which would give automatic planning permission for certain types of schemes.

And next week Allerdale Council’s ruling executive is being urged to agree to hold a referendum in June into whether the orders should be introduced. If more than 50 per cent of the voters are in favour, they will be brought into force.

It means that the ground floors of Market Place buildings could automatically change to restaurants, cafes and bars; seats and tables could be put outside of businesses and shop fronts could be changed without seeking council approval.

Cockermouth was earmarked for the pilot scheme, by the Department of Communities and Local Government, after the 2009 floods damaged hundreds of properties in the town and many people complained that strict planning laws delayed urgent repair work.

Allerdale’s head of development services, Kevin Kerrigan, is recommending executive members agree to the referendum, when they meet next Wednesday.

Mr Kerrigan said holding a referendum would cost between £8,000 and £10,000 which would be covered by a £20,000 government grant.

Councillor Mark Fryer, Allerdale’s executive member with responsibility for economic growth, previously said the Cockermouth project originated after the floods caused serious damage to the town centre, which is deemed a Conservation Area.

“Residents and traders found that the need for planning permission delayed the repair and restoration process,” he added. “The NDOs are designed to be proactive and positive development tools, which, as well as ensuring that the character and appearance of the town centre is both preserved and enhanced, would also give local communities more control over what happens.”

The NDOs would also relax planning laws to use underused space to create housing and replace non-traditional doors on houses.

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