PLANS to convert a pub into a small Sainsbury’s in a Gwent village were given the go-ahead yesterday despite claims the move could be catastrophic for local traders.

Opponents said they were disappointed by the decision by Newport planning committee to allow the conversion of the Angel Hotel on Goldcroft Common, Caerleon.

But one member raised fears the council would lose an appeal if planning threw out the application.

Newport council lost an appeal against a decision not to give planning permission for a site in Rogerstone to be redeveloped for a Tesco Express store following a planning inquiry in 2008.

Officers and a sub-committee of planning councillors who visited the Caerleon site had recommended Hillvale Properties Ltd’s plans for a Sainsbury’s be approved.

More than 1,700 signatures were collected for a petition against the move, while 128 letters of objection were sent to the council.

But 66 postcards, sent by Sainsbury’s to locals, were received in support.

Caerleon Labour councillor and committee member Paul Huntley said feeling was very strong.

He said the effect on small local businesses nearby would be “catastrophic”, claiming the store would increase traffic and pollution on High Street.

Independent Cllr Noel Trigg said: “Caerleon will be dead as far as shopping is concerned.”

But Labour councillor and deputy chairman of planning committee Paul Hannon said: “We very much feared that any objection could be lost on appeal.”

He said they ran a risk that conditions attrached to the planning permission could be lost – officers requested restrictions on hours for deliveries and the use of an ATM.

Labour Cllr Miqdad Al-Nuaimi said if the committee was to object on traffic congestion “we need to be sure of the evidence”.

Officers have argued that the proposal would not result in a harmful increase in traffic, with the new store likely to attract people who would have travelled to another store by car anyway.

Aplanning report said the effects on the air quality management area at Lower Caerleon High Street would be low.

The application – which includes proposals to convert part of the building into two flats – was carried by seven votes to three.

Councillors Val Delahaye, Noel Trigg and Paul Huntley objected.

Chairman Ron Jones, Paul Hannon, Miqdad Al-Nuaimi, Christine Jenkins, Malcolm Linton, Jane Mudd and Richard White voted to approve with conditions.

Decision is a ‘betrayal’

ONE trader called the decision a betrayal of the people in Caerleon, saying most of the village was against the proposal.

Yin Loo, owner of the Spar on Station Road near the Angel, said: “It would definitely have an impact on us. To me it’s like a betrayal of all the residents of Caerleon.”

Flora Stedman, of the Fresh Start sandwich shop on High Street, said: “It’s gutting to be honest. It’s going to be devastating.

I rely on the kids from the comprehensive school.

“They are going to do meal deals that will undercut me.”

Andrew Walker, of nearby Walker’s News, said he was disappointed: “We have got to think about what we are going to do.”

EDITORIAL COMMENT: A difficult decision

THE decision by Newport planners to allow a pub to be converted into a supermarket is hugely controversial.

The Angel pub in Caerleon will now become a Sainsbury’s store after the city council’s planning committee backed the scheme.

The proposal has sparked significant protests in Caerleon, particularly among local independent traders who fear for their futures in already tough economic times.

Such is their strength of feeling that they have accused councillors of betraying them.

It is a difficult situation.

The licensed trade is seeing pubs closing all the time and then being converted into retail premises.

This is far from positive, particularly for traditional community cohesion, but it is a fact of economic life. If a business is not well-used it will go to the wall.

Independent traders, meanwhile, continue to suffer and some will no doubt see the arrival of a big player as unfair competition.

The problem facing Newport planners, however, is that unless there is a significant reason in planning law to refuse an application, they are duty-bound to approve it.

The alternative is to risk losing an expensive appeal.

We appreciate the plight of the Caerleon traders. But we suspect planners were caught between a rock and a hard place.