Shaftesbury’s councillors have supported plans for a Lidl store on the Cattle Market. The Town Council had objected to the store’s design in June. Lidl has amended its proposal, and if Dorset Council backs this application, the store could open by autumn.
Lidl says that their new supermarket will encourage people to spend on convenience goods here in Shaftesbury, rather than travelling out to Gillingham and Blandford. Their senior consultant, Victoria Burton, addressed Tuesday’s planning meeting and claimed that the store would make, ‘a positive contribution to the viability and vitality of Shaftesbury’.
Councillors were pleased with the re-drafted application. “The initial plans for Lidl were not as good as they could have been. They have been improved,” Cllr Peter Yeo explained, following the planning meeting.
At last March’s Town Meeting, Cllr Piers Brown said he could not support plans to put up the ‘big tin shed’ steel and glass structure in Shaftesbury. He disliked the design of the Lidl store in Blandford. He said that the former Cattle Market occupied a site that was on the ‘gateway’ to Shaftesbury.
Lidl has since altered their choice of building materials and is proposing a brick façade. “I want to thank Lidl for covering it in bricks, so it is a little more in keeping,” said Piers. “It’s a pretty damn good application from where I am sitting, and it is on the side of what people in Shaftesbury want.”
Lidl says that an artist will be commissioned to create a public art display on the south-west side of the store. Ms Burton told the meeting, “We intend to secure the services of a local artist and we appreciate the Town Council’s help with this.” She wasn’t able to specify whether the work would be a sculpture, a mural or painting but she told Alfred it would be ‘fixed to the wall’. She was unable to offer any indication of the budget for the art when we contacted her on Wednesday.
Access to the proposed supermarket has been one of the most controversial points. When Lidl suggested creating an entrance leading off Christy’s Lane, councillors were concerned that queuing traffic could block the fire station exit. Cllr Philip Proctor had previously suggested that Lidl’s entrance should run from the access road that links the Tesco roundabout to the Tesco store.
But Victoria Burton explained that the access rights over that roadway, which the Cattle Market site occupants had enjoyed, were lost when the site was sold. Lidl’s legal investigation had confirmed this. “For us, it’s very difficult to sell a store where our main competitor has control over our access,” Victoria said. Cllr John Lewer asked whether Lidl had contacted Tesco to ask if they could share the access road. Victoria replied that they hadn’t.
“The chances of them agreeing to that are probably about zero because they are a competitor,” Cllr Peter Yeo said. “The only option they had was for an entrance off Christy’s Lane and they’ve come up with a plan which is the best solution.”
Dorset Highways consider that the store will increase traffic flow, but they don’t expect the impact to be severe. Traffic coming from Ivy Cross will be able to turn right into Lidl using a new filter lane.
John Lewer wasn’t convinced that was the best solution. “Whether you think a new entrance on Christy’s Lane is a good idea or not depends on how often you use the bypass,” John observed, adding, “There will be more traffic than the Cattle Market.”
Victoria confirmed that the proposed road widening can be accommodated within the width of the existing highway. And she said the new road layout will include a pedestrian island on the Tesco roundabout side of the filter lane to ‘improve crossing facilities on Christy’s Lane’. The footpath in front of the Lidl store will also be widened from 2m to 3m, ‘to create a segregated cycleway and footway’. Dorset Council has insisted that cycle parking facilities are in place before the store opens.
This road widening comes at an environmental cost, though. Shaftesbury Tree Group had objected to the application because two beech trees, planted to mark the Queen’s Silver Jubilee, would be felled. Those trees form part of a leafy ‘avenue’ along Christy’s Lane.
Cllr Yeo was disappointed by the loss of those established trees. He said they would be cut down because Dorset Highways had insisted on a wider entrance. A third tree on the site will be felled. Ms Burton promised that replacement trees, of the same species, would be planted and Peter was assured that they would not be saplings.
Lidl says that thirteen new trees will be planted around the site. That satisfied Cllr Alex Chase. “The jobs, the competition and the choice for the people of Shaftesbury must override that when so many more (trees are) being planted,” he said.
“Sadly, you can’t stop progress for relatively small things,” said Cllr Lewer, as he considered the tree felling objection. “You can only fight battles that you think you have some chance of winning. I am content that we did the best we could to balance the interests of both the firm and the environment.”
Enmore Green resident Caleb Fulford attended as a member of the public. He spoke to support Lidl’s plans and twice suggested that the supermarket chain could make a £5,000 donation to the Tree Group. The two Lidl representatives present didn’t react or respond to his idea. Ms Burton wouldn’t confirm whether a donation would be considered when we spoke with her on Wednesday morning.
Cllr Yeo wanted better provision for electric vehicles. Two electric vehicle charging points are being proposed. Peter asked whether any Lidl stores had more units. Victoria was unaware of any. She said that Lidl was proposing to invest in more expensive, faster-charging facilities because shoppers generally spend less time in Lidl’s smaller stores.
That shorter store ‘dwell time’ also influences the store’s parking time-limit. Shaftesbury Chamber of Commerce has unhappy with the loss of free, all-day car parking spaces when the Cattle Market site closed. And Cllr Lewer told the meeting that locals were displeased when Tesco reduced their parking time from three to two hours. Lidl is proposing 90-minutes free parking.
Cllr Yeo asked Lidl’s two representatives whether they would increase the parking time. Victoria said that the 90-minutes maximum stay could be reviewed if there were empty spaces after a few months of trading. Cllr Chase said that there is no car parking on the site at the moment. Lidl’s car park would, ‘automatically create more car parking for the town’. He thought that an hour-and-a-half offered ample time. “It is enough to pop into town and then come back and do some shopping in Lidl or the other way round, and then be on your way.”
Lidl says that there will be ‘a programme of archaeological investigation’ before building work takes place. The proposed store is close to the listed ice house in the grounds of Barton Hill. Victoria reported that Dorset Council’s conservation officer had not raised specific concerns.
Cllr John Lewer abstained from Tuesday night’s vote, as meeting chairman. But Cllrs Peter Yeo, Andy Hollingshead and Alex Chase supported the application. “To vote to support someone coming into the town to offer jobs, consumer choice and competition to Tesco is fantastic. The fact that they’ve listened to the Town Council’s previous objections and amended the application is a good news story,” said Cllr Chase.
Cllr Piers Brown, who is not on the Planning Committee, but who attended the meeting, agreed. He said that the new store would create more jobs and, ‘reduce food prices for people who are struggling to get by’.
The strongest endorsement of the store came from Cllr Yeo. “I like Lidl. I think they do great stuff,” he said, before reminding councillors that had was deeply unhappy about the process behind the Cattle Market sale. And he is confident the supermarket will get the green light from the Planning Authority in Dorchester. “It’s pretty certain that the proposals for the Lidl store are not going to get rejected by Dorset Council,” Peter said.
As Shaftesbury’s council has supported Lidl’s plans, Dorset council officers will now likely decide whether the application can go ahead. Victoria said it normally takes between nine and ten months to build a store, so Shaftesbury’s Lidl could be open before Christmas.