Sunday, November 16, 2008

More on supermarkets

I seemed to have caused a bit of debate about supermarkets. For those who think a Local Planning Authority can just refuse to allow them, I'd like to share a little true story.

About two years ago, Lidl submitted a planning application to construct a supermarket on the J T Hughes car sales site in Newtown. I never met a single person in favour, including councillors and planning officers. But Powys County Council (the LPA) didn't refuse it - they just did nothing much at all. After a few months, Lidl appealed to the National Assembly on the grounds of non determination - and at the same time submitted a second similar planning application on the same site. Eventually, the first application fell to be heard by an Assembly planning inspector. The Powys Planning Department took a report to councillors, outlining their strategy of opposition to the development, to ensure councillor support. Because of a fear that the appeal would succeed, and they would be subject to huge costs, councillors informed their officers that they were not able to offer the requested support - in other words, they they were on their own. A few days later the planning officers completely changed their position and recommended approval of the second application. At the next meeting, the second Lidl application was approved. The local population (including me) was dumbfounded. Shortly afterwards, the appeal against non determination of the first application was withdrawn. Thats how we came to have the Lidl supermarket built on what seemed to me to be a totally unsuitable location, about half a mile from the town centre.

I live between Newtown and Welshpool, both of which have recently been considering planning applications for supermarkets. In Newtown its been with Tesco directly, and in Welshpool with a developer who has just announced that the client is Tesco. On balance, I'm against the Newtown proposal and in favour of the Welshpool proposal - mainly because the Newtown supermarket will be beyond practical walking distance from the town's retail centre, while in Welshpool it will be on the edge of it. There are other considerations as well, principally concerning traffic flows. Its also the case that the local Council is in favour of both of these developments. I'm meeting Welshpool's Federation of Small Business later this week, when this issue is bound to be a major talking point. So this blog may have yet another supermarkets post on Friday.


Anonymous said...

glyn i thouight lidl in newtown was decided by the assembly not by the council

Glyn Davies said...

anon - This is not the case. What did happen was that the National Assembly did consider calling in this application, but eventually decided against it, stating that it was a matter for the local council to decide. I was very surprised that the Assembly did not object on highway grounds - but it didn't. The decision to approve was taken by Powys County Council, accepting the recommendation of its planning officers. Don't try to put the responsibility elsewhere.