Historic Derbyshire store to be replaced by ‘rabbit hutch’ bedsits

Burton's Home Furniture, on Beaconsfield Street, could be forced to move out by the owner of the building - who is applying to change it into two houses of multiple occupation.
Burton's Home Furniture, on Beaconsfield Street, could be forced to move out by the owner of the building - who is applying to change it into two houses of multiple occupation.

After more than 100 years in the same premises, an Erewash furniture shop is to be left homeless.

At a meeting of Erewash Borough Council’s planning committee, councillors chose to approve a plan to turn Burton’s Home Furniture, in Beaconsfield Street, Long Eaton, into bedsits.

The business, formerly called Rowells, has operated from the same building for 118 years. Although councillors felt that turning the site into bedsits was ‘like squashing people into a rabbit hutch’ they approved the plans, from the building’s owner, John Austen, by a vote of seven to five. This is despite opposition from the current owners of the business, Andrew and Mandy Payne, who state that it ‘brings economic viability to the town’ and maintains a strong customer base.

Andrew and Mandy have been running Burton’s for the past 25 years, but now the building from which they operate will be turned into two houses in multiple occupation (HMOs) with a total of 14 bedsits.

Mr Payne said at the meeting: “It will be a sad, sad day and a sad, sad loss if this is given the go ahead.

“Let Burton’s be a part of the regeneration plan for the town. It has sat at this site for 118 years and it has gone through an awful lot of history and has a lot of loyal customers.

“Elderly customers find access to us very easy and from us they often go into the town and go and support other business, we bring commercial viability to the town.

“Even though the HMO which is already in use to the back of us is marketed to employed persons only, the noise and disruption on a daily basis has been unacceptable and we think this premises would become the same.

“You have a chance to house a long established business, or have more HMOs when they are already some in close proximity.”

However, a letter of support from the building’s owner stated: “The building requires substantial investment funds to bring up to date.  

“This together with the economic future as a retail shop is not sustainable.   I have personally subsidised the building to the tune of several thousand pound and am unable to do this anymore.

“The potential new owners are offering huge investment which will benefit the area and fit well with what has already been achieved.”

Councillor Val Custance said: “This is like squashing people into a rabbit hutch. This is not a struggling business, it is doing well and we should be encouraging it to carry on, not let a landlord close it.”

Councillor Glennice Birkin commented that the existing HMOs in Beaconsfield Street cause ‘a lot of problems for the local residents’.

Councillor Frank Phillips said: “Whether you like it or not, there does seem to be a demand for this type of accomodation unfortunately. It is a gamble on whether you get good tenants, but we can’t affect that.”

Meanwhile, Councillor Howard Griffiths said: “We are not here to plan people, but land use.

“We are not here to decide who are good people. If this building is within building regulations in a sustainable location, in reach of shops, in the town centre and near a car park, how can we say no?

“We perhaps have too many shops empty and should be drawing people into the town centre.”

Cllr John Frudd said: “I don’t see how we can refuse this, we would just lose at appeal. It is a fit and proper item to approve.

Cllr Paul Shelton commented: “This is a case of ram them in and stack them high.

“The type of people that you have living in these sorts of places do not have other choices. ”

Head of planning and regeneration at the authority, Steve Birkinshaw, rounded up: “We have a tenant who runs a business and provides to the town, however, it is the landlord who controls the building and has put forward this application. The idea that the use being operated is something you like and want to keep, instead of this application, well you are essentially asking the landlord to evict the tenant and apply again.

“I don’t envy this position you are in, but in the case of change of use, the view of the tenant can rarely be taken into consideration.”