RIDGE Hill residents have won the battle to save a well-used and popular cornershop on the estate.
Councillors have rejected a proposal to bulldoze a row of shops and apartments on Rydal Walk, including Waz’s convenience store, and replace them with 24 two, three and four bedroomed homes.
Cllr Sam Gosling, whose ward represents Ridge Hill, sat on Tameside Council’s Speakers’ Panel (Planning).
Cllr Gosling, who had backed residents in their fight, said: “It is up to Jigsaw Homes to go back to the drawing board and come up with a design which not only incorporates a convenience store but also a hub for the Big Local which would also have been lost.
“Officers recommended rejected on the grounds of poor design, density, highway safety and disabled access and the Speakers’ Panel agreed with them.”
Arshad Mahmood, owner of Waz’s convenience store for the last 12 years, said: “We very pleased with the news. We are happy with any option Jigsaw put forward, whether it is staying here or moving to a new store, as long as we can continue trading.
“We are happy to listen but, until now, Jigsaw were not prepared to listen to us.”
Mr Mahmood added he had been overwhelmed by the support he had received.
He explained: “We did not ask anyone to help us, but everybody did, the residents, councillors and you (Correspondent).
“I would personally like to thank everyone for their support. It shows how everyone cares.”
Councillors were faced with a dilemma of protecting the community’s local amenities or providing new affordable homes.
If approved, it would have seen the loss of Waz’s convenience store and newsagents as well as a hub for the Big Local community group.
The applicant, Jigsaw Homes – formerly New Charter – stated the proposed redevelopment of Rydal Walk and Ambleside Parade has the intent of creating a ‘community where people want to live’.
But planning officers recommended the plan are rejected as they said it had not been proven the retail units are no longer viable.
Two petitions totalling 419 signatures had been lodged with the council against the loss of the convenience store and Stalybridge North councillors Adrian Pearce, Jan Jackson and Sam Gosling all objected.
They said cuts to transport services are isolating the Ridge Hill community and many relied on their local store.
“Regeneration involves more than housing and needs to be mindful of the needs of the wider community,” their objections state.
“The existing convenience store is well used by local residents and provides a vital facility.”
They added it is hoped to open a post office on the same site as the newsagents.
Planning officers said that if the shop was lost, residents on Ridge Hill would have to walk 800 metres to get to the next nearest store.
Outlining their reasons for recommending refusal, officers stated: “The proposal would result in the loss of the designated shopping parade which is the only allocated retail site on the Ridge Hill estate.
“The applicant has not provided sufficient justification that the parade is no-longer needed/viable in the form of robust marketing information.
“Conversely the comments raised by the existing retail operator, local residents and members clearly demonstrates that the parade serves the day to needs of the local community.
“Whilst there are merits to the provision of modern affordable housing the overall regeneration case presented by the applicant is not compelling.”
Officers added there are also issues relating to housing supply, design, layout, security and access.
In a design and access statement on behalf of Jigsaw, John McCall architects pitched that the development would create a ‘high quality living environment.’
“The proposed development should actually benefit the site and surrounding area by enabling the site to engage with its immediate environment and integrate into the existing neighbourhood,” the submission states.
“In creating an inclusive and sustainable community capable of supporting local facilities our client believes that this development represents a significant step forward in ‘ensuring that everyone has the opportunity of living in a decent home which they can afford in a community where they want to live’.”
Demolition work has already begun on one block of maisonettes on Rydal Walk which was approved through an earlier application to the council.