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Policy's breached to turn shop into office
A lettings agent has won permission to open in a former Oxford lingerie shop, despite objections about its impact on the area.
The shop in Walton Street will be the second city branch of Premier Lettings, which also has a site in Cowley Road.
The firm applied to change the official use of the empty unit – opposite the Phoenix Picturehouse – from retail to office.
Oxford City Council planning officer Matthew Parry had urged councillors to throw out the plan, for the former Saratoga lingerie shop.
Allowing it for office use would breach a council policy that demands 50 per cent of retail units in the area are shops, he said.
This would cut the number of shops to 15 out of 35, he said, and there was no evidence it had been “extensively marketed”.
Two residents objected, with concerns there are too many estate agents in the area.
But Jan Bartlett, senior partner at Premier Lettings, told councillors it would make a “positive difference” by catering for people on low incomes.
West area planning committee members were divided on the plans.
Colin Cook said: “Given the nature of this area, we need to try to maintain shops that sell stuff.
“If we are to do anything remotely promoting businesses in this county, I think they are the ones that need most protection.”
And John Goddard said: “This street needs more retail shops. That is the simple answer.
“There is no evidence of it being adequately marketed.”
But John Tanner said: “I can’t think of a better place for a letting agency than that shop.
“It is extremely difficult for smaller businesses to sell things like knickers or whatever they want to sell because competition is so strong from larger chains and supermarkets.”
And committee chairman Oscar Van Nooijen told Wednesday’s meeting that one or two estate agents “dominate” the market in the area.
He added that he did not think granting permission would have a really bad effect on the situation.
The committee voted five to four in favour of a five-year permission for a lettings agent only.
Afterwards, Mrs Bartlett said she was “over the moon” and the shop would create at least three full-time jobs.
She said: “It is the right thing for the people of Oxford because there is nobody offering what I offer.”
Picturehouse manager Suzy Sheriff said: “It has been standing empty for a long time.
“We are in difficult economic times so we should be happy something is going there.”