Monday, September 28, 2020

News: Store wars in Swallownest sees Lidl plans shot down


Members of the planning board at Rotherham Council have voted to refuse plans for a new Lidl foodstore, despite them being recommended for approval by officers.

The German global discount chain submitted plans last year for a new 20,000 sq ft store on a site at Rotherham Road, Swallownest that would involve the demolition of the Christ Church building and, at the rear of the site, improvements to changing rooms and playing pitches at the existing Miners Welfare Society.

Rothbiz reported last week that planning officers had been satisfied with studies carried out by the applicants around the impact of the development, the transport implications, the new community facilities and the use of the greenbelt land.

A total of 129 representations have been received, 78 objecting to the proposal, and 51 supporting the scheme. Objectors to the store, which would create up to 40 jobs and have an annual turnover of around £10m, included Aldi, which is readying a store at nearby Fence, and the Co-op, which has a store already in Swallownest.

Comments relate to increased competition and the impact on nearby shops in Swallownest but others highlight highway safety matters, bearing in mind the nearby school and nursery.

Michelle Davies, addressing the planning board on behalf of the applicant, said: "This proposal represents a significant investment by Lidl into the local area and will create 40 full and part time employment opportunities for local people, as well as associated construction jobs. Capital generated by the scheme will also allow both of the current occupiers of the site, the Miner's Welfare Club and Christ Church, to further invest in the local community.

"If planning permission is granted today, Lidl intend to commence work as soon as possible with a target store opening date of Autumn 2021.

"The proposal will also increase local consumer choice in Swallownest by providing a discount foodstore in an accessible location, immediately on the edge of the centre."

Davies also accused rival commercial operators of using delaying tactics.

Aldi's representative confirmed that its Fence store, which gained planning approval in 2014, plans to open in January 2021 and said that the allocated retail site was a "marginal" one for the operators.

Mark Stringer from Aldi, told board members that two discount stores and the existing Co-op puts their investment at risk. He said: "Aldi could have taken the option not to progress with development on the Swallownest site and instead object on the grounds that Lidl are preventing investment from coming forward. However, this would have been to the detriment of the residents of Swallownest and a position where there was no guarantee of any new retail store, further delaying the bringing forward of Aldi's investment."

The council was accused of a lack of transparency in choosing retail consultants at Avison Young to assess parts of the application as Aldi said that they have previously been used by Lidl.

Chris Beebe, planning manager for the Co-op explained to the planning board: "We didn't object to Aldi, but feel we have to object here. The proposal is, quite simply, in the wrong place and will have a severe detrimental impact on the whole of the existing centre."

He added that he believes that, based on similar cases, the impact on the Co-op store will be a 30% negative hit on turnover, rather than a 16% hit that consultants conclude, and that the viability of the store would be at risk in its current form.

Matthew Parker spoke about the impact on his Del's Supermarket on the nearby High Street, stating that Swallownest doesn't need another discount store and that members should think about the jobs that could be lost at the Co-op and his store if Lidl went ahead.

Board members discussed concerns over retail impact, and linked trips from the "edge-of-centre" Lidl into the district centre, along with traffic safety and pollution levels regarding the nearby school and nursery.

The board voted nine to two to refuse the application. The detrimental impact on the Swallownest district centre was the main reason for refusal with councillors questioning that enough people using the Lidl would also make a link trip to the centre.

Images: Google Maps / Lidl


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