Beckworth Emporium revamp approved despite villager protests

The popular food emporium has been given permission to knock down and extend parts of its site.
The garden centre and restaurant has been a big success since it first opened twelve years ago.The garden centre and restaurant has been a big success since it first opened twelve years ago.
The garden centre and restaurant has been a big success since it first opened twelve years ago.

A popular garden centre and food emporium near Sywell has been granted planning permission to grow its business despite protests from nearby villagers.

Beckworth Emporium was last night (August 13) given permission by Wellingborough Council to knock down and renovate pats of its venue and build a new event building as well as new kitchen, store rooms, toilets and a restaurant extension.

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Altogether 3,970sq m of existing buildings will be demolished and replaced with 4,300 sq m of new facilities. Parking spaces will also be increased to 510.

Business owner David Brown, who opened the venture on a then derelict site in 2008, said the plans were about ‘modernisation and not expansion’ and said: ‘I’m worried that if we can’t invest then we are going to go backwards quite rapidly.”

The centre, which attracts visitors from across the county and beyond, employs 130 people, has won a variety of awards since it opened and is rated as four and a half stars on TripAdvisor.

However the development plan was fought against by Mears Ashby parish council and local ward councillor Clive Hallam, who had concerns about the impact on Mears Ashby of the increased visitor numbers that would be using Glebe Road.

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The garden centre is located close to the junction of Glebe Road and Sywell Road.

All protestors said they were supporters of the venue but nearby road improvements were badly needed.

Cllr Hallam said: “Almost without exception everybody I have spoken to loves Beckworth. There are some genuine concerns though.”

Cllr Hallam said Glebe Road had become a rat run and plans to re-edge the road a few years ago by the highways authority had been dropped because of cuts. He argued permission should have been refused on grounds of over development and that the owner, villagers and councillors should come up with a solution.

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The parish council put forward a number of suggestions of how the road could be improved including a mini roundabout, new road signage and notices on the venue’s website to ask visitors not to use Glebe Road.

However Northamptonshire county council, which is the local highways authority had no objection to the development and

Beckworth’s owner also said a traffic survey they had commissioned showed the average speed on the road of 33 mph.

Planning committee member Cllr Andrew Scarborough asked Mr Brown if he was washing his hands of the road issues and said the people of Mears Ashby deserved better from a local business owner.

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Most other planning committee members were supportive of the venture. Cllr Griffiths said the business should be supported especially in the current covid times.

Cllr Graham Lawman said it was for the council to take forward the road concerns and fight for improvements.

After an hour long debate the planning committee passed the plans with no conditions for road improvements. Mr Brown said the new improvements could lead to the food emporium taking on an extra 15 to 20 staff.

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