Much-loved St Albans delicatessen saved from being converted into housing

Buongiorno Italia owner Tony Picciuto inside his delicatessen which his landlord wants to convert in

Buongiorno Italia owner Tony Picciuto inside his delicatessen which his landlord wants to convert into a residential property - Credit: Archant

Loyal customers of an independent St Albans delicatessen have applauded the second rejection of a push to convert part of it into a four-bedroom home.

Planning inspector Matthew Nunn has dismissed an appeal by Alan Oakley, the new landlord of one-half of Buongiorno Italia, to develop a two storey rear extension, plus a basement, via a change of use - from shop to residential.

The rejection, which endorses the district council’s refusal of the scheme, has pleased the delicatessen’s owner, Tony Picciuto, who was worried that he might have to dramatically downsize his shop in Lattimore Road if the extension went ahead.

His refurbished delicatessen is the result of an expansion of the shop he leases from Mr Oakley into a neighbouring one, which he owns.

Mr Nunn, in his decision, explained that the main issue was “whether the proposal would be consistent with the aims of national and local policy, particularly in relation to valued facilities and established shops.

“At my visit, I observed this business sells a wide range of high quality Italian foods ... and other assorted groceries. It has won a number of awards.

“The shop is clearly a very popular and valued facility, as evidenced by the substantial number of representations objecting to the change of use.

“The shop’s owner also advises that the business provides around four full time jobs, two part time and temporary work for students.

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“Considerable financial investment has taken place in the business over a number of years.”

While Mr Oakley told the inspector the reduction in floor space would be negligible, Mr Nunn said it was “obvious the floor space forms an integral part of this established, well-regarded shop.

“The appellant’s proposal to incorporate the retail floor space into the existing residential unit could not but adversely affect this thriving business.”

Although Mr Oakley claimed that councillors had rejected his scheme because they had been unduly swayed by local opposition, Mr Nunn said his assessment of the bid’s merits showed it was “unacceptable on planning grounds”.

Mr Picciuto said he was “really pleased the inspectorate saw the importance of the part of the shop that was under threat and took note of the many representatations sent against the proposal, along with the government’s policy that shops need to survive and flourish”.

On Buongiorno’s Facebook page customers were quick to praise the decision, with many heralding it as ‘brilliant news’.

One woman said: “At last, a planning inspector NOT completely obsessed with turning every spare piece of St Albans into flats!”