Shoppers Welcome Lidl Plans But ‘Waste Of Space’ Is Challenged

Lidl presented their plans for a supermarket on the Cattle Market site during a public exhibition on Thursday. ThisIsAlfred went along and found that while many residents welcome the store, there are calls for Lidl to rethink their site design.

Some locals argue that the space should be better used to help reduce the risk of developers building more homes on Shaftesbury’s open green spaces.

A steady stream of potential customers filed into the Coppice Street Youth Club on Thursday. Some people were interested in the forty jobs that Lidl say they will create. Others were tempted by the free samples of food, laid out on tables down the middle of the room. A few visitors were filling-up shopping bags with the free bounty of crisps, cakes, biscuits and pastries.

Lidl was keen to drive home their lower pricing. They selected 35 shopping basket items and display boards announced that these Lidl goods were 24% cheaper than Tesco and 42% cheaper than Waitrose.

Most attendees we spoke with wanted Lidl in town but some of them wanted the store built elsewhere. “I have no objection to it, but I think it’s in the wrong place. I would prefer that they put it on the other side of town,” resident Ann Bradbury told me.

“We do need another supermarket here. I agree with that,” added Pat Stainer. “Preferably it would the other end of the town, though. I know that’s a problem. There are people in Enmore Green who don’t drive and they have to walk up the hill to the town, get their shopping and walk back.”

Hazel Kelly also likes the company but not the store location. “I’m pleased that there’s going to be another store. They say this is in the centre of town but it is certainly not.” Hazel wanted to know why Lidl didn’t take on the empty Budgens store. “I phoned them. There wasn’t enough square footage and there was no car parking, except the public car park.”

Shaftesbury resident James Dick acknowledges that Lidl’s proposed Cattle Market site will be bigger than the former Bell Street supermarket. “I understand it is 2,000 square metres inside, so it is a sensible size, and that Budgens is much too small for them,” said James. “I was hoping that it was possible to have a Lidl at the other end of the town but I realise that that’s not possible now.”

Lidl has produced a ‘detailed transport assessment’ to establish the capacity of local roads and to assess the effect of the development on them. They say they will pass that onto Dorset Highways. A right-hand turning lane will be added to Christy’s Lane, so southbound traffic won’t end up queuing behind vehicles waiting to turn into the car park. And a pedestrian-only footpath will replace the vehicle access from the Tesco service road.

Lidl believe that their new store will divert existing shopping trips. 80% of journeys made to the store will come from people who currently travel to existing retail outlets. Lidl’s presentation boards suggested that their new store will keep people in the town and their retail assessment suggests High Street traders will not be affected.

You could argue that they would say that, but shopper James Dick says that a Shaftesbury store will mean fewer trips down the road. “Why, go to Gillingham if you’ve got a Lidl here? Simple as that really,” James said.

And Ann Bradbury agrees that a Lidl on our doorstep will reduce her mileage. “I’m now 80 and I have got three joint replacements. So there comes a time soon when I might not drive at all,” said Ann.

Supermarkets need parking and so does Shaftesbury, according to the Chamber of Commerce. Lidl would offer 119 shoppers’ spaces – free for 90 minutes. There’s also 0.6-acre section of the site that Lidl say they probably won’t need. They say they will dispose of it when the outcome of their planning application is known.

“When they sold the Cattle Market, they did away with a lot of the free parking and it was very noticeable because it happened just before Christmas,” said resident, Pat Stainer. She asked whether this extra plot could be used for parking. “And they said, ‘yes, that’s coming up. Lots of people have said that’,” Pat said.

When supermarkets open new stores, they are expected to make a contribution to the Council to offset the impact of their development. One town councillor who attended Thursday’s exhibition suggested using this ‘Section 106’ developers’ payment to buy the unwanted 0.6-acre space from Lidl and put free car parking on it.

Last July, Shaftesbury Town Council discussed hiring a professional negotiator to arrange the best Section 106 deal for the town. There is no word on whether that plan has progressed but time is now of the essence. Lidl hopes to submit their plans soon, maybe over the next fortnight.

The Civic Society’s Jackie Upton-King thinks that Lidl should just donate the unwanted space. “We need to think very carefully about what happens to what they call the ‘disposable land’ and whether or not that should be handed over to the community as part of a Section 106 agreement, so that the community could have a go at making better use of a part of the site,” said Jackie.

So what will the proposed site look like when it’s finished? Lidl say that hedgerows and boundaries along Christy’s Lane will be retained. One tree will be felled to allow access but they say it will be replaced.

The steel store, with its glass frontage, will be set back from the main road and will run up towards the Tesco building. But there were mixed views on the industrial appearance of the proposed Lidl building.

“I think the design of the store itself leads to such an inefficient use of this really nice site, really good site. A single story, bland, glass and white building has no context here,” said Jackie from the Civic Society.

Shaftesbury’s Mayor had said he wanted a brick-faced building but resident Hazel accepts that the design represents Lidl’s standard style. “You can’t tie it in with what’s here already. Shaftesbury has been here for very many centuries. We’ve got to move with the times. I’m not so concerned about that.”

Chairman of the Shaftesbury Neighbourhood Plan group, Tim Edwyn Jones, has an issue with the single storey design. The government sets quotas for homebuilding and future growth targets could impinge on the town’s green spaces. The Neighbourhood Plan is against building on fields on land beyond the existing ‘settlement boundary’.

“It is a waste of a very scarce resource,” said Tim. “The opportunity should be taken to ‘masterplan’ the whole site. If there aren’t affordable houses built in the town centre, then where else are people going to build them?”

Tim doesn’t want a single storey store. He wants affordable flats built on another floor above the supermarket. He wrote to Lidl and presented his idea to their executives during Thursday’s event. The idea was not well received, even though Tim says Lidl has done this elsewhere.

“Initially no,” said Tim. “Although they have used other schemes in London, Reading and I think in Bristol, to do just that, they have decided that this is not a suitable site for that. I think we might be able to change their minds by making some representations. Let’s see. The planning process has just begun and I think if anybody has similar views to mine, I would urge everybody to make some representations.”

Jackie Upton King of the Civic Society also questions whether Shaftesbury’s precious space is being used effectively. “The parking should be underground. There should be flats, at least on one storey, if not two storeys above it, to actually maximise this really important town centre site,” said Jackie. “This proposal by Lidl is a really shoddy ‘cut and paste’ design and project which has no relationship to the town.”

There was some irony in Jackie’s choice of the words, ‘cut and paste’. Lidl had prepared forms for people to write their support and also objections. They had pre-printed tick boxes to record their opposition, with reasons such as ‘traffic noise’ or ‘impact on a district centre’.

Option number 8 was ‘a general objection to further development in Tadley’. When locals pointed out that this form was a cut-and-paste copy of their store consultation for an area of Berkshire, Tadley was hastily scratched out.

Lidl executives declined our offer to record interviews about their proposals. They are not allowed. They did say that they hope the store will be open next spring.

That’s good news for locals who say they want to reduce their supermarket spend but Tim and Jackie want what they believe is a waste of space addressed before the new store gets built.

“The Civic Society will hopefully be getting together with other organisations in town, who also feel strongly about the poor use of the site. It’s the waste of the land that I think is the biggest concern,” said Jackie.