Lidl’s plans to open a new store on the former Shaftesbury Cattle Market site are being challenged by a rival. Tesco claim the proposed supermarket next door will reduce their income and affect town centre traders more than Lidl suggest.
Tesco has listed reasons why they believe Dorset’s planners should make ‘a robust refusal’ of Lidl’s plans. In a letter written to Dorset Council, consultant Miles Young says that Tesco think the proposed Lidl store design is not right. Lidl’s architects have already amended the proposal following some negative feedback from Shaftesbury councillors.
Lidl has added brickwork to their originally proposed glass and steel structure, but Tesco argues that this design is ‘fundamentally below the standard required’.
Chair of Shaftesbury Civic Society, Jackie Upton King, understands Tesco’s concern. “Part of what the Civic Society stands for is high standards of design and we have felt all along that the glass box, albeit with a bit of brick, does not offer high standards of design in the historic environment of Shaftesbury,” Jackie said.
Tesco says they had to overcome ‘a number of important design issues’ with their own supermarket, which opened in November 2004. Their store’s format was ‘heavily modified’ to fit the site and Tesco’s architects had to add features, including an arched colonnade and portico, to meet local requirements.
Tesco also argue that Lidl’s use of the Cattle Market site is inefficient. Their consultant refers to the North Dorset Local Plan, which specifies land use and recommends ‘mixed-use’ development for this site.
“We are not against Lidl in principle. We are not against having a second supermarket in Shaftesbury. What we have always been concerned by is the (Cattle) Market site itself is a very strategically placed piece of land and we would have liked to have seen that used in accordance with the local plan. That’s mixed-use and the best possible use of the land. We didn’t feel the Lidl plan offered us that,” said Jackie.
One idea proposed by Shaftesbury Neighbourhood Plan chairman, Tim Edwyn-Jones, which Mrs Upton King supported, was for affordable housing flats to be added above the store. And in their objection letter, Tesco’s agent claims that their Shaftesbury store has played an important role in the community and employs over 150 staff.
Perhaps the most significant issue is that Tesco say they control the land that Lidl want to use for a direct pedestrian walkway from their proposed store, through Tesco’s car park, to the town centre. Tesco say that there is no right-of-way and Lidl need to ask for Tesco’s consent, but Lidl has not made contact.
This access issue could be significant. Tesco says that the Lidl store should not be considered ‘well connected’ to the town, which is an important test that planners use when considering whether new supermarkets can be built on sites on the edge of town centres. Those developments need to be under 300 metres from the main shopping and business area. Without a direct walkway to town, shoppers would need to walk the 750m along Christy’s Lane and Bell Street to reach the town centre.
Tesco argue that the Cattle Market is, therefore, an ‘out of town’ location in planning terms and Lidl need to assess other similar sites, to see whether they can find one that’s better connected to town.
If Dorset Council planners agree with Tesco’s comments this could create delay Lidl while further surveys are undertaken. This objection could potentially jeopardise the siting of a Lidl store on this land altogether.
Mrs Upton King says she has been surprised that the project has gone so far without these matters being checked. “It seems extraordinary that the parties involved didn’t do their homework quite some time ago, to make sure that the rights-of-way and this whole issue around the town centre site were done,” said Jackie.
Tesco also suggests that without the footpath linking the proposed Lidl to the town centre, shoppers would be less likely to park at Lidl and then walk into the town. This would ‘deter linked trips’, which would be damaging to town centre traders, they say. Tesco, on the other hand, claim that their two hours of free car parking benefits other town-centre businesses.
Tesco also alleges that Lidl has underestimated how much money their store will take from town centre traders. Tesco is worried about their turnover, too. They say that Lidl’s figures, which claim that 35%, or £3m, of their new store’s annual turnover will come from Tesco shoppers, are too low.
Jackie believes that Tesco’s remark about revenue reveals a great deal. “It is one supermarket trying to stop another supermarket establishing in what is a very small community. There aren’t many chimney pots here and what they are fighting over is the number of people who shop in their stores. It is very little to do with the community.”
In a statement to Alfred, Tesco wrote: “There are clear planning reasons why this Lidl development should not go ahead. For the store to be edge-of-centre Lidl would need access rights they do not have across our store’s car park. We also have concerns about the poor design of the proposed store. Given these grounds for refusal we believe the application should be decided by the full planning committee and not left to officers.”
We offered Lidl a chance to comment by email and phone. They did not take up our offer. Alfred also asked Dorset Council whether this objection will alter the timeline for determining Lidl’s application and when they thought planners would discuss the proposal. The council didn’t respond either.