There have been last minute comments and contributions to the Rocks Green supermarket debate. Love Ludlow has submitted alternative plans for the site. Indigo Planning, acting for the developer Blackfriars, has filed a new statement making clear that retailer will not be Tesco or Aldi. These stores will not be allowed to move out to Rocks Green. Indigo is also hinting that the store will be the discounter Lidl. Lidl have told county planners that they are interested in a store on this site.
The South Planning Committee will decide whether to back the scheme or reject the plans this afternoon (Tuesday, 7 February; 14/05573/OUT).
In a letter to the planning committee chairman, Love Ludlow campaigners propose an alternative plan for the site. They suggest the site could be used for a smaller convenience store – not the large store planned. This would on the east side of the site alongside a much-needed petrol filling station. The rest of the site could accommodate up to 30 or so houses.
Love Ludlow also provides data on the impact the proposed scheme might have on independent traders in the town centre. A recent survey “shows that losing up to a tenth will threaten the survival of over a quarter of businesses (28%) and a loss of just a fifth of income will threaten the survival of nearly all” (93%).
There has been concern that the proposed store could be occupied by one of the existing retailers from Ludlow town centre – Tesco or Aldi. In its letter to council planners on Friday, Indigo are proposing that both stores are barred from occupying the Rocks Green store for five years after the planning permission is granted. That’s a watertight way of preventing a company like Tesco selling its existing store for housing and moving out of town.
Indigo states that the planned size of store is suitable for a Lidl. It provides evidence that Lidl is looking for a store in many locations, including Ludlow. Indigo stops short of confirming that Lidl is its client for the Rocks Green scheme but Lidl says it is interested.
The Head of Property at Lidl has written to council planners:
“I am writing to confirm that Lidl do want a store in a Ludlow. [sic] If permission is granted this week, the site at Rocks Green would be suitable for us and the size of store is appropriate.”
“We are discussing terms with the developer. If there is a consent in place and we can reach agreement, we will develop a Lidl foodstore on the site creating new local job opportunities.”
“If Lidl UK can agree terms to progress this opportunity I am confident that a Lidl store opening at Rocks Green will not have a detrimental impact on small shops in the town centre.”
The publication of these important contributions a day before the planning committee sits shows just how much planning as become a tactical game. The planning committee will make its decision using its best judgement. It will know that regardless of whether it approves the development or dismisses it, its verdict will be controversial. Those promoting this scheme, and those opposing it, are using the last days and hours of the planning process to influence the outcome.
This will continue this afternoon when Love Ludlow and the developer will each be given a few minutes to make final comments before the committee.
This planning application has been in the system since December 2014. We first learnt about the proposals in June 2014, more than two-and-a-half years ago. It is time for it to be decided.
I’ll publish the decision on this blog this afternoon.
This article was updated on 7 February 2017 to take account of newly published documents regarding Lidl.