Insurance firm overturns planning oddity to bring 90 jobs to Peterborough’s Cowgate

An insurance company had to challenge an unusual planning condition to bring 90 jobs to Peterborough city centre.

Tuesday, 19th October 2021, 5:00 am
The former first storey snooker hall in Cowgate.

Motorcycle insurance brokerage BeMoto has just secured the green light to open a call centre in the former Rileys gym and snooker hall in Cowgate.

But the firm’s much-needed move from Thorney was delayed by a 39-year-old planning condition that limited use of the Cowgate building to a snooker hall.

As call centre and snooker hall uses both fall under the same planning label, Class E, the company should not have needed planning permission for the move.

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But the original planning permission, signed in May 1982, that allowed the snooker hall to be built on the former premises of Sycamore Garage also ‘unusually’ limited future uses of the building to a snooker hall.

It meant that BeMoto had to hold up its hoped for move, with jobs for young people hanging in the balance, until the matter had been resolved by Peterborough City Council.

Now council officers have overturned the condition and BeMoto has been given the go ahead to open its call centre.

In its planning approval notice, the council states: “For the avoidance of doubt, the proposed change of use requires planning permission, given that there is a condition which limits the use of the site to a snooker hall only.

“However, it is not considered that the change of use is unacceptable in principle.”

It means that BeMoto can go ahead with its plans to use 870 square metres on the first floor of number 15 to 27 Cowgate for its call centre.

It wants to relocate its business from Thorney, where it employs 45 people, to Cowgate to allow it to double its workforce.

In a statement to the council supporting the application, Gordon Smith of Matrix Planning, the agent for BeMoto, reveals that the ‘relocation is due to an adventurous expansion programme and inadequate premises in Thorney.’

He warns that any delay in relocation will inhibit the company’s ability to employ staff through the Government’s Kickstart scheme, which aims to get 16 to 24-year-olds on Universal Credit into work.

BeMoto currently has 14 funded Kickstart placements agreed between now and December with plans to increase the number.

Mr Smith states: “The proposal would add to the vibrancy of the city centre.”

He added: “The proposed use as an office was inhibited by the terms of a condition on the original 1982 permission that unusually limits use to a snooker hall.

“It is not known why the limitation was imposed.

“Consequently, an application was necessary to legitimise the current proposal to use the premises as offices.

“Rather than seek to amend the relevant condition of the 1982 permission, for clarity a new permission was sought.”

The arrival of BeMoto is likely to be welcomed by many traders in Cowgate who have worried for some time about a drop off in footfall in the edge of city centre street, which six years ago benefited from an £800,000 investment by the council to restore shop fronts to their former Victorian appearance.