Thu, 09 Jul 2020
A LIDL superstore will not be coming to Tadley after West Berkshire councillors decisively rejected the application.
In the council district planning committee yesterday evening (Wednesday), councillors voted against the scheme by a majority of nine to two, citing concerns over the application’s green field site and the possibility of setting a precedent for future development.
The committee also agreed that the application went against the council’s planning framework as it was outside the settlement boundary, and that the discount supermarket wasn’t ‘exceptional’ enough to deviate from this policy.
Councillors ruled that even though public opinion was overwhelmingly in favour of building the superstore – with just under 1,000 responses in favour and 86 against – the council’s policy framework took priority.
Alan Law (Con, Basildon) acknowledged the overwhelming support by the public for the scheme but said a retail store couldn’t be considered an ‘exceptional’ reason to go against planning policy.
He said: “Clearly the weight of opinion is on the side of approval, but if you look at all the lobbying we’ve had, the vast majority argue one point only – the need for another retail outlet in Tadley.
“I think if I lived in Tadley I’d be saying the same thing. I accept that.
“But I have a question to ask – why have it here on this site?
“I think we’d all agree this is contrary to West Berkshire planning policy, and if we’re going to approve it it’s got to have exceptional circumstances.
“I’ve given it a lot of thought and I cannot find an exceptional set of circumstances which would allow me to approve this tonight.”
Mr Law went on to say that approving the development could set a precedent for further greenfield development in Tadley.
He continued: “We’re losing a greenfield site, and I don’t think it’s any greenfield site, it’s surrounded by other greenfields.
“Those greenfields are a nice area between the built up area of Tadley and the AWE.
“If we were to approve this, it could be a precedent for further incursion into this greenfield gap.”
Hilary Cole (Con, Chieveley and Cold Ash) said: “I know since Covid-19 hit us, there are strong economic and environmental benefits to this application, but we have to balance our commitment to our planning policies against our commitment to rebuilding our local economy.
“However in my view, the economic and environmental arguments do not outweigh our planning policies.
“We take pride in being a plan-led authority and must be consistent in our decision making.”
Alan Macro (Lib Dem, Theale) also voiced concerns over the possibility of a Lidl lockdown in the event of an emergency at the nearby AWE and the distress it could cause.
He said: “The prevailing wind means if there was a radiation leak at the AWE, it is most likely to cover Tadley unfortunately.
“If this did happen and there was a lockdown lasting between 24 to 48 hours and people were locked in the supermarket for that length of time – okay they’ve got plenty to eat and drink – but they’d be separated from their loved ones.
“I’m thinking about parents and their children – there could be a large amount of distress.”
Just two councillors voted in favour of the project – Phil Barnett (Lib Dem, Newbury Greenham) and Royce Longton (Lib Dem, Burghfield and Mortimer).
Mr Barnett argued that had the council followed the letter of its policy, Vodafone’s headquarters in Newbury and Falklands Surgery in Wash Common would never have been built, depriving the area of jobs and “a great community benefit”.
He said: “It is the same for this application – extra local jobs, cutting down emissions, community benefit and offering choice.
“This application, while outside the settlement boundary, must also be considered in the light of 2020, and the objectives of our climate emergency, where encouragement to travel minimum distance to shop must be at the forefront of all of us.
“Furthermore, the Government clearly encourages choice and in this case one supermarket holds a monopoly.
“Therefore members, in my case, I shall vote in support of the application tonight.”
The controversial application went before the district planning committee after the council’s eastern area planning committee gave the scheme the green light in December last year.
As that approval went against planning officers’ recommendations for refusal based on the negative impact on a greenfield site and was contrary to development policy, the application had to be settled by the council’s most senior planning committee.