Lidl can finally open in Huntingdon after winning its planning appeal.
Planning inspector Martin Whitehead’s decision will allow Lidl to build its supermarket and 14 apartments on land south of Fern Court in Stukeley Road.
The German company had appealed against Huntingdonshire District Council’s refusal to allow its planning application – HDC said the plan could effect the vitality of Huntingdon town centre. The council also said that Lidl had not shown that another town centre would be suitable and added that granting permission for the scheme on the outskirts of town would contravene planning policy.
It was argued that Lidl should move into the Waitrose building in St Benedict’s Court when that supermarket move to the new Chequers Court development, which sees Sainsbury’smove to a new, larger store being built just off Brampton Road.
But Lidl said the Waitrose site was not appropriate in terms of its availability and suitability.
In his report Mr Whitehead said there was a “high degree of uncertainty” about the dates of availability of the Chequers Court development.
He wrote: “Whilst the existing Waitrose store could be vacated within the next three years, there is very limited evidence to show that this would be the case, particularly as there is nothing before me from Waitrose to confirm that they are intending to relocate to Chequers Court.”
The report goes on to add the had been a recognised need for “discount” foodstore in Huntingdon for about eight years, and “it was unreasonable to delay the provision of the Lidl foodstore in Huntingdon for what could be an uncertain period of time to wait for the Waitrose store to become available. In his respect,I do not consider the Waitrose store to be available for the appeal development.”
Mr Whitehead also agreed with Lidl that the Waitrose store would not suit its business needs and could not be adapted to meet them.
He concluded: “I have found that the proposal would not have an unacceptable harmful effect on the vitality and viability of Huntingdon town centre.”
Executive councillor for strategic planning and housing Councillor Nick Guyatt said: “The council is clearly disappointed by the decision owing to its stated desire to support the regeneration of the town centre.
“The Inspectorate’s decision appears to turn on the need for a Lidl-type discount store, which the council has itself identified. It is disappointing that the Inspectorate did not take a longer term view of the proposal as the council had in suggesting that a suitable location in the town centre would potentially be readily available.
“The council remains committed to supporting the regeneration of the town centre.”
– Send us your views: Is this good news for Huntingdon or will it cut the number of shoppers in the town centre? E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org