PLANS for a new supermarket for German food giant Lidl off Battens Drive were approved by Redditch planners last night (Wednesday, November 25).
And in truth, with the spectre of a costly planning appeal hanging over them – which the council would likely lose – they had little choice but to give their reluctant approval, despite an array of eloquent speakers against it.
The new store, on the site of the health and fitness club and beauty salon by the entrance to Arrow Valley Country Park, will extend to a retail space of just over 1,000 square metres, have parking for 95 cars, 10 motorcycles and 40 bicycles.
In addition Lidl will provide a signal controlled pedestrian crossing and bus stop on Battens Drive.
Members of the public speaking against the proposal raised fears of increased traffic, litter, and anti social behaviour.
One resident, David Pellett, a former police inspector whose experience included working as a fatal road traffic accident assessor, highlighted the rush hour traffic congestion already on Battens Drive.
“Early this year I became aware of an accident on Battens Drive close to the Arrow Valley car park where one person had to be cut out of a vehicle,” he told the committee.
“Should this plan be accepted without proper traffic calming measures, and I would recommend traffic lights at the junction with Hopyard Lane, the law of probabilities indicates that both more traffic and accidents will occur and the residents of Winyates West will suffer.”
Ken Williams, general manager of the Kingfisher shopping Centre, hit out at the ‘inflexibility of the applicant’ for failing to take advantage of several alternative sites in the town centre, either within the Kingfisher or one of its car parks.
Other locations rejected by Lidl as unsuitable, included areas like the former bus depot in Church Road or in Edward Street by the railway station.
Mr Williams, a director of the town centre Business Improvement District and a contributor to the Town Centre Regeneration Board, underlined that the store was in the wrong location and that councillors should be supporting the town centre, not edge of town or out of town retail developments.
However Nick Hardy for the applicant emphasised that the highways authority, Worcestershire County Council, had raised no objections, and that the borough council’s own retail advisor could raise no objection.
He added that priority would be given to traffic accessing the Arrow Valley Park and the supermarket would create up to 40 new jobs.
In addition this store would be secondary to the town centre one, whose lease would be honoured until at least its renewal date in 2023.
Councillor Bill Harnett (Lab, Church Hill) raised concerns about the store’s impact on the district centres of Church Hill and Winyates,
Coun Tom Baker-Price (Con, Headless Cross and Oakenshaw) spoke for many members when he said the store was in the ‘wrong place’ before adding: “Without the retail advisor supporting us I do not think we will win any planning appeal.”
He proposed approval of the application and was seconded by Coun Andy Fry (Lab, Lodge Park). Put to the vote the plan was approved with Coun Harnett voting against and Coun Roger Bennett (Con, Headless Cross and Oakenshaw) abstaining.