Shaftesbury Civic Society wants part of the Cattle Market site donated for community use. Lidl says that 0.6 hectares is spare and not required for their proposed store.
The deputy mayor wants your ideas on potential uses of the land. “This is not a campaign to get rid of Lidl. This is a campaign to get the best for Shaftesbury out of a bad deal,” explained Shaftesbury Civic Society chairman Jackie Upton King. She has written to Dorset Council to ask them to convince Lidl to hand over the unwanted land.
When the former North Dorset District Council controversially sold the Cattle Market, many residents voiced their disappointment. Jackie says Dorset Council, which took over most of North Dorset responsibilities, should, ‘do all they can to encourage or support’ the land being ‘returned to the community’, at no charge.
“Because of the disgraceful way that the Cattle Market was sold over the heads of townspeople, I think it’s important and would be a morale boost to the town to have that land given back,” Jackie told Alfred. “The Cattle Market once belonged to Shaftesbury and through all sorts of complications with local government, it ended up in the hands of North Dorset District. They weren’t prepared to give it back. There is some small chance of compensation – a chance for us to have an interesting and meaningful stake on that land if it is handed back.”
Jackie believes that Lidl will require, ‘quite a lot of persuading’, and reckons that is Dorset Council’s duty, ‘as they are in receipt of the funds generated by the sale of that land’. All companies who build estates or supermarkets are required to make a contribution to the local authority to offset the additional strains their development will place on local infrastructure. “There will be some sort of section 106 agreement with Lidl and I do feel that the transfer of that land for free to the community should be part of that agreement,” said Jackie.
Town councillor Peter Yeo was a vocal opponent of the Cattle Market sale. “The Civic Society should come and have a chat with me sometime. I am the Shaftesbury Town Council acquisitions member,” he said. “It would be great if we got a bit of land for Shaftesbury Town Council, especially at nil cost. I am not sure that will happen because they paid money for it but it would be great PR if they did. There were a lot of people against the loss of that publicly owned land. I will be doing everything I can to get this council to support us acquiring this piece of land. It’s vital. It’s right in the centre of the town. If it was in town ownership, we could do a hell of a lot with it to benefit all of the citizens of Shaftesbury.”
Cllr Piers Brown is Shaftesbury’s deputy mayor. He was also a councillor on North Dorset District authority when they voted to sell the Cattle Market site. Piers believes that it is unlikely that Lidl will gift the disposal land. “Personally, I am more than happy for us to say ‘make us an offer if you want to give it over for free’. It would be slightly tongue in cheek because I can appreciate, it’s quite unlikely,” said Piers.
“The reality is Lidl are responsible to their shareholders,” Piers continued. “They are going to want to get a financial return. Maybe it is something that the council looks into in the future or it may not be.”
Piers is correct in that Shaftesbury Town Council isn’t currently looking at acquiring this spare land whether that is by donation or purchase. “We have not engaged in conversations with Lidl as to what the price of that land will be,” said Piers. And even if it was offered at little or no cost, Cllr Brown stresses that there would be future expenses, and ownership would need to be factored into any decision. “If the offer comes through, we will be looking at it, putting together any financial model and business case behind that. It isn’t just taking the land on, it is also maintaining it into the future and making sure we can get value for money, social value for that.”
Jackie says there is a range of potential uses for this space, although the Civic Society has no fixed views. “A coach park for people visiting Shaftesbury through to a block of affordable flats,” she said, adding that the town’s residents should be asked how they would wish the site to be developed. “I think we should set up a community land trust and set the ball rolling on community consultation across the whole population, to find out the sort of things that it would be possible to do with a relatively small piece of land.”
Piers also wants to ask residents for their thoughts. “If any members of the public have great ideas on what we could do, were we to purchase the land in a way that is financially sensible, please get in contact with myself or the Town Council,” said Piers, whose email address is firstname.lastname@example.org. He believes this plot offers a range of opportunities. “Everything from car parking to public open space through to business units and everything in between,” said Piers.
Cllr Yeo says that more car parking is critical. “Long stay car parking in Shaftesbury is a major issue. We were very lucky before. We had the Cattle Market, which was in use all day and free of charge. We have the Tesco car park, but you are now limited to two hours. The Lidl car park will be 90 minutes.” And Peter says that the long stay facility at the Bell Street car park is ‘usually jampacked full’.
Cllr Yeo told Alfred that he did have a brief conversation with Lidl’s two representatives who attended the last planning meeting, when Shaftesbury Town Council supported the supermarket’s amended plans. “At this stage, they are only really concerned with getting a planning application through. The disposal of that land will only be in their minds once they get their planning application through the county council,” he said.
We put the Civic Society’s request for Lidl to donate their unwanted land to the supermarket chain. Oliver Thomas, Lidl’s corporate communications officer said the chain would ‘be considering all options regarding the disposal of any surplus land’, and that would be ‘once a decision on the store’s planning application is made’.
The Civic Society’s letter to Dorset Council raises some additional concern that two mature beech trees will be felled to create wider access to the store from Christy’s Lane. Lidl responded to Alfred, stating that, ‘an additional 13 new trees will be planted on site’, although it’s unclear how mature these plantings will be.
The Civic Society also wants all vehicles leaving the store to be forced to turn left onto Christy’s Lane, to reduce the potential for ‘blockages’ and for pedestrian safety reasons. And Mrs Upton King claims that Lidl’s decision to add only two electric vehicle charging points is ‘inadequate’. Lidl say these will be ‘fast-charging electric vehicle points for the residents of Shaftesbury’ and Mr Thomas adds that their store will feature ‘solar panels on the roof, to improve energy use’.
Jackie wants to make it clear that the Civic Society doesn’t oppose Lidl as a company.
It’s unclear when Dorset Council will decide on whether to grant the retailer planning permission. Once Lidl gains approval, they say that a store will take between nine and ten months to build.