Lidl approved despite town revamp fearsBy Lewis Rudd
January 06, 2011
Lidl will come to Wokingham after planning bosses brushed aside suggestions it could jeopardise the multi-million pound regeneration of the town centre.
A chorus of cheers and applause greeted Wokingham Borough Council’s planning committee’s decision to approve the supermarket chain’s application to build in Molly Millar’s Lane last night.
The committee went against the advice of the council’s planning officers, who recommended the plans be refused on the grounds it would detract trade from the town centre.
According to the planning team, having a Lidl in close proximity to the town would impact on its value, attractiveness and investment opportunities, particularly now plans for a major revamp of the area are in full swing.
Councillor Matt Deegan, executive member for community regeneration, told getwokingham before the meeting approving the development of a discount supermarket would pose great “dangers to the regeneration”.
A statement read out on his behalf at the meeting by Cllr Steve Chapman, committee chairman, said: “The town centre regeneration is too important for the long term future of Wokingham.
“This development could be putting it at risk because this is the wrong place and the wrong location at the wrong time.”
However, members of the committee failed to understand why an out-of-town deep discounting supermarket would have such harm on the proposed regeneration and voted in favour of the plans.
Cllr Norman Gould, ward member for Shinfield North, said: “Genuinely, Lidl going to Molly Millar’s Lane I am not against it.
“I understand the planners’ problems with trying to control the impact of the site. But the odd thing about Lidl is that they are all out of the town centres.
“I cannot see it having a significant impact on the town centre. Getting involved in a town centre regeneration is not in their territory.”
Jason Gratton, representing Lidl, said the budget brand could not afford a unit in the town centre, however the out-of-town location would be suitable for a supermarket with a turnover of around £3 million a year.
He also pointed out there was strong support for the plan from residents, including a petition with 1,300 signatures, and Wokingham Town Council.
Some of the supporters, who were armed with “Say Yes to Lidl” banners, packed out the Civic Offices in Shute End to hear the good news.
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