Way is clear for Whitchurch Aldi plan to get approval
Controversial plans for a new discount supermarket on the outskirts of a town look to have taken a major a step closer to being approved.
Shropshire Council threw out the proposals for a new Aldi store on the outskirts of Whitchurch last year.
But the discount chain has appealed the decision, saying the store, proposed for a site in Wrexham Road, would not have a detrimental impact on the town centre and that its opening would create 40 jobs.
A planning appeal was held at Shirehall in Shrewsbury yesterday, with inspector Hayden Baugh-Jones revealing Shropshire Council would no longer be making representations against the plan.
And although a decision will not be made by Mr Baugh-Jones until a later date, it means the path is now clear for the chain's plan to be given approval.
Sarah Reid, a solicitor acting on behalf of Shropshire Council, said the decision was made to refuse the plans last year on the basis that it would have a detrimental effect on town centre businesses and the landscape.
Rival supermarket Lidl also voiced concerns that it would have to close its store in the town should the plans be given the go ahead.
But the council is now satisfied that would not be the case and withdrew its chance to give evidence to the appeal.
Anthony Crean QC, for Aldi, said: “It has been very helpful for the authority to act now. It is a quirk of the planning appeal system that the hearing continues.
“There has been a very large amount of consultation and engagement with the public and there has been widespread public support for the plans.
“Even Shropshire Council has acknowledged the benefits.
“There is a need for a food store in Whitchurch given the growing population and the benefits far outweigh the harm.”
Mr Crean added: “The Lidl objection is very much reduced.
“Lidl would not close because of these plans being given permission and even if it did this could not be classed as impact on the town centre.”
But Councillor Beverley Duffy, of Whitchurch Town Council, said it would be “unacceptable” for the development to get the go ahead.
“This is totally unacceptable because of the location it is in,” she said.
“It’s green, open countryside and the gateway to the town. The plans have no reflection on the rural location.”
Councillor Duffy also said it would have an impact on town centre businesses and tourism numbers.
“It would cause irreparable damage to the view of the Llangollen Canal and those using it coming in to town,” she said.
“We have boaters and walkers coming in and out of Cheshire here and it would ruin the view and landscape forever.”
She added: “It is on the town boundary, the very edge and there is no current bus route.
“It is unsafe for the elderly and infirm to use, so car journeys would go up. It would cause congestion.
“We also have a historic town centre which attracts visitors both nationally and internationally and we do not want the opening of the store to have an effect on the many independent traders who people come to see and support.”
Mr Crean QC asked Councillor Duffy if the town council recognised any of the benefits the store would bring.
“No,” she replied.
“Has the council not looked at harm versus benefit?” Mr Crean QC asked.
“Not it has not,” Councillor Duffy answered.
A site visit will now be carried out by the inspector before a final decision is announced later this year.
Story by Local Democracy Reporter Andrew Morris