Village Post Offices are of immense value to the communities they serve. For this reason, their viability is protected by the planning regime. The High Court made that point in blocking plans to open a convenience store in potential competition with a rural Post Office branch.
A developer wished to convert an unoccupied doctor’s surgery into a convenience store with a maximum retail space of 170 square metres. However, the owner of an existing nearby shop objected that any loss of custom to his marginally profitable business was likely to result in the closure of his Post Office counter. More than 1,000 local residents signed a petition opposing the proposal.
The local authority nevertheless granted planning permission for the new store. Potential impact on the Post Office’s trade was not a significant planning consideration, as advised by the planning officer. Their report stated that the new store would bring the vacant property into productive use. This would therefore help to meet the shopping needs of the village’s growing population.
In upholding a challenge brought by the Post Office owner, the Court noted that the officer’s report failed to address the issue of whether the new store might undermine the Post Office’s viability. The preservation of such community facilities was a material planning consideration in its own right and the report did not suggest that the Post Office owner’s concerns were unfounded. Planning permission was subsequently quashed, as a result of councillors having been misled by the report.