Radstock’s 150-year-old supermarket has committed too much to its development and the town to walk away now, councillors have been told.
The Radstock Co-operative Society secured permission last year to replace its “eyesore” Radco store and build 54 homes.
Bath and North East Somerset Council has since failed to strike an agreement with the co-operative to ensure it did not build the homes and walk away, but they have now reached a compromise.
Work on the homes will not begin until piling for the store has been completed, when the firm will have committed several million pounds.
Representing the co-operative at the planning meeting on 21st October, agent Jonathan Orton said: “This is about a 150-year success story in Radstock. It’s about real jobs. It’s about a real organisation committed to hopefully another 150 years in Radstock.
“As we go into more uncertain times there’s a real urgency for us to maintain this momentum that came with the unanimous decision in October .
“I can appreciate some concerns about experiences of people building things and walking away but that’s not the case here.”
He said construction costs had shot up and the co-operative needed the option to release money from the housing part of the scheme.
A deal struck with B&NES Council officers means work on it will only begin after the “several millions pounds of commitment” needed for piling works for the store have ended.
Cllr Eleanor Jackson, a planning committee member and Westfield parish councillor, said: “This is a crucial employment site. Radco employs about 180 staff.
“All bar two of them were offered employment elsewhere during the development or were employed in the head office in Westfield. We simply can’t afford to lose these jobs.
“This application comes at a time when another major employer has announced its departure from Westfield at a cost of 280 jobs. We simply can’t afford to lose the Radco jobs as well.”
She said the project was not viable without the new store and offices, and the co-operative would not just build the homes and vacate the site because it is answerable to its 1,700 shareholders.
The planning committee unanimously backed the officers’ recommendation.
Members voted last October to approve Radco’s proposals after hearing the public benefits outweighed harm to the conservation area, the lack of affordable housing and the loss of two-thirds of the parking spaces.
The existing store, which is leaking and “beyond economical repair”, will be demolished and replaced with a pair of three-storey buildings around a new public square.
One will house the replacement supermarket, along with the co-operative’s head office, with flats on the upper two floors.
The other will have more apartments, giving a total of 28, with extra retail space downstairs.
Members also gave the go-ahead for outline plans for 26 terraced houses at the rear of the site that will make up the second phase of the development.
Stephen Sumner, Local Democracy Reporter