Lidl gets set to expand into Huntingdon

BUDGET supermarket chain Lidl looks set to move into Huntingdon.

The low cost food outlet believes a new Stukeley Road store would give shoppers a cheaper alternative and boost the town’s economic growth and development.

It would also create 40 full and part-time jobs and give people discount choices without thwarting existing shop business at Waitrose and the Co-Op.

Residents are said to be eager to fill up their shopping baskets but the popular expansion could be halted in its tracks if Huntingdonshire District Council decides knocking down four homes is too big a price to pay for Lidl’s offer of “the highest quality at the lowest prices”.

In a letter to district planners, acquisitions manager Wendy Hurst said: “There is an identified need for a discount foodstore within Huntingdon.”

She insists there would be “no harmful impact on the town centre or on the next phase of the Chequers Court proposal” but is up for taking on big names like Tesco and Sainsbury’s to “promote competition and enhance customer choice”.

She believes fighting Huntingdon’s dominant supermarkets would ensure Huntingdon can “meet the needs of the entire community” but a report by consultants GVA Grimley says: “The foodstore will have no harmful impact on the turnover of existing stores in the town centre.”

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“We believe in the importance of becoming part of the community,” Ms Hurst adds. “To that end, we are committed to recruiting locally wherever possible.”

The site is currently a mixture of homes and industrial buildings but is being redeveloped with a residential complex and cycleway.

Designers say the proposal “will not increase congestion” and have produced a travel plan which says road safety risks are minimal.

They also plan to have just one delivery a day to save fuel consumption and believe: “Lidl will improve the distribution of convenience retailing in the town.”

A carefully designed building with 70 car park spaces will also “respect and enhance the character of the area” and “physically regenerate a prominent site”, architects say.

“The proposals for a Lidl foodstore on Stukeley Road will deliver a valuable facility for the community that will significantly improve consumer choice and improve the qualitative range of convenience goods available within the town,” a GVA Grimley report concludes.

“The recent open day event demonstrated the overwhelming majority of residents who attended were in favour of the proposals.”

Council planners will have to weigh the application against grocery provision elsewhere in the town, including the nearby Tesco Express in Wertheim Way, and proposals by both Sainsbury’s and Tesco to build superstores in an expanded Huntingdon town centre.

Which of those is eventually built - planners would not countenance both - will depend on a report due next month following a public inquiry into HDC’s area action plan for what it calls Huntingdon West, the area to the west of the ring road, including Hinchingbrooke.

This is the German chain’s second recent attempt to open in Huntingdon. Planners refused its last application 10 years ago for the site of the former Brookfield School site that is currently being developed by social landlord Luminus.