Borough Councillors today voted to delay the decision on the proposals for a Lidl store on the outskirts of Downham Market.
The agenda of the January 9th Planning Committee meeting at BCKLWN was rearranged today to address the new documents and submissions around this planning application which were included late. Committee chair Mrs Vivienne Spikings addressed in ‘urgent business’ that the council staff are recommending to councillors they “defer” the application decision.
Steven Bell, legal officer, provided legal advice to the council during the meeting. He advised that more time was needed to consider the new plans including those referring to the ‘Eco Store’. Mr Bell suggested that if council made the decision today “it is likely to lead to a challenge by one or other parties and therefore put the council at risk.”
Lidl submitted a number of new documents for the new plans, the ‘Planning Statement’ document was submitted to the council on 10th November 2022 but this was not uploaded to the public planning portal until Wednesday 4th January 2023. On Friday 6th January, 3 days before the planning meeting today, Tesco raised the issue that the documents were not published in time. Tesco also sent the council a 7 page letter outlining their “interim” objections to the new plans, which focus around the impact the new store would have on the town centre.
One element of the new Lidl plans is an “Eco Store” (economy) format, referring to a slightly smaller store. Lidl uses this format “on a case by case basis, dependent on market conditions”. The proposed store has been scaled down from 1,414sqm to 1,250sqm, a decrease of 11.6%.
Councillor for Methwold ward Tom Ryves no longer objects to the plans for a new Lidl store, writing on 2nd January that “my initial fears that the knock-on effect of LIDL’s opening on the A10 would be detrimental to the health of Downham Market town centre were misplaced.”
Councillors agreed unanimously to defer the application. Councillor for Downham East ward Josie Ratcliffe accepted the decision to defer is necessary, saying “We don’t need another mix-up like last year, where a legal challenge from a competitor caused Lidl to submit a separate application.”
The application has 339 public comments supporting and 21 comments objecting to the plans. The Downham Market Town Council supports the application, providing that “Carstone is a major feature of the building” and measures are in place to shield neighbours from disruption and air pollution.
The application was previously granted by BCKLWN in May last year but has since been subjected to a judicial review, where a judge is asked to rule on whether the proper procedures were followed. The judicial review, thought to be brought by a supermarket competitor in the town, was successful which resulted in Lidl submitting new scaled down plans.