Controversial Lidl finally approved despite 'bias' claims from opponents

Ashfield House Resolution Road Ashby Lidl plan NWLDC Nottingham Road
-Credit: (Image: Lee Garrett/Leicester Mercury)

A controversial Leicestershire Lidl store has been approved despite claims planning officials had put out a “biased report” in favour of the supermarket chain. Traffic and congestion concerns over the store, in Ashby, were raised throughout the process, but one councillor said anyone affected should go “off peak” to avoid queues.

The long-running saga surrounding the Resolution Road scheme came to an end yesterday (Wednesday, July 10) after more than a year of concern from councillors and residents. It has long been argued the proposal, which will see the demolition of the vacant Ashfield House office block, would lead to increased traffic in Resolution Road and adjoining Nottingham Road, with some even fearing “paralysis” on the roads.

Highways officials have raised no such concerns though, sparking anger from some on North West Leicestershire District Council’s (NWLDC) Planning Committee. Councillor Dave Everitt was among those opposed to the plan, saying: “I wasn’t elected to make life more difficult for people, so I cannot support this because I think it’s the wrong decision, it’s in the wrong place and it’s going to add to all the problems. That’s not what we're here for.”

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Lidl’s plan will now see the empty office block flattened and make way for a “clean and contemporary” store that will create up to 40 jobs. The supermarket has long argued Resolution Road was the only viable site for the store, but committee members called this into question.

Some questioned if other sites, including at Ashby’s growing Money Hill housing development, had been considered. According to officials, Ashfield House was “sequentially the best site” following independent reviews, but some did not back the planning officers’ stance to approve the scheme.

Artist's impression of the Lidl store for Ashby's Resolution Road
An artist's impression of the Lidl that is now coming to Ashby -Credit:Rapleys

Coun John Legrys said: “I’m appalled by this report. It’s the public and the people who use Nottingham Road regularly who will have to put up with the traffic congestion at this junction. [There are] no pros and cons of this site being installed [in the report]. It appears to me the report is biased. This report comes across as ‘take it or leave it’. It’s not a balanced report on why this application should or should not be approved.”

The claims were strongly denied by planning officer Chris Elston who defended the report, saying it was “balanced”. He also denied claims officers were “trying to pull the wool” over people’s eyes.

The committee was also told that despite the many traffic concerns, refusal on these grounds was not possible. Mr Elston said such moves would lead to an appeal which Lidl would most likely win given the lack of concerns from highways officials.

Some councillors even questioned those opposed due to the traffic fears. Coun Ray Morris said: “The addition of Lidl will not suddenly lead to a lot of extra traffic attending the site. It will simply rearrange the pie as it were for market share between the supermarkets.

“People are not going to suddenly come to this area, flock to it, because there’s a Lidl. They’d come anyway. To be honest, if you’re concerned about the traffic, go in an off-peak time. Don’t travel at peak times.”

Despite the numerous concerns, the committee had been recommended by planning officers to approve the plan. The vote initially led to a tie, but Coun Russell Boam, chairman of the committee, used his casting vote to approve the scheme once and for all.

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