John and Jean Fleet run a nice-looking Spar store in the village of Emneth in Norfolk. It was recently expanded - and featured in our 4 December issue. I can see how great it looks with a picnic table outside and smart brickwork. However the council gave them some real headaches.
“When we applied for planning permission several issues were brought up, such as parking, noise pollution and so on. Eventually, after much correspondence, we were granted planning with certain conditions,” writes Jean. “Two which concern me now are double yellow line and dropped kerbs.”
Then she asked me something I’ve never been asked before: how was I on highways legislation? In particular, dropped kerbs.
Jean says: “Originally we had a dropped kerb outside our shop where we parked our cars, enough for two, leading into our yard. This is what we did away with to extend our shop, making a new parking area for our cars around the corner. The other dropped kerb was existing, there for however number of years as our shop has been a shop for the past 400 years.”
As part of the planning permission one of the clauses stated they had to make good any dropped kerbs. They didn’t have a problem with making good the old driveway one. “My problem is by removing both dropped kerb areas we are discriminating against disabled customers with mobility scooters. One of my main objectives when we extended was to allow full use for elderly and disabled customers around the shop and I feel I have achieved this by making a gradual increase slope into the shop and wide isles. Indeed, we do have several wheelchair and mobility scooters who use the shop.”
Her other concern was access for the artic lorry deliveries. “I did speak to the highways on these points and they were quite stroppy and said I might have to install a pram way, which I believe is reducing the area of the dropped kerb, but still leaving enough space to get a pram up.”
I did have plenty of advice for them, ranging from calling the local paper, the disabled charity Scope which campaigns on behalf of wheelchair users; also UKDP, the Disabled People’s Council. I suggested getting them both to write to Kings Lynn Borough Council. Then get a petition up in-store and contact the local MP.
Finally, I recommended the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors for a free half-hour on the phone (surveyors are accomplished at negotiating with councils as they tend to take note of their ‘professional’ approach).
Jean was prepared to make all these moves, but then the highways chap paid a visit. “Got the impression he was doing us a big favour; however, he did agree that one of the dropped kerbs need remain but the other will have to be built up at our expense using their workers!”
Although not ideal, a compromise has been reached.