Resident group slams plans for new Lidl store in Wetherby as "unwelcome"
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'Better Wetherby' said many town centres have experienced "decline with substantial numbers of empty shops" in recent years.
However, they said Wetherby had avoided this issue and remains a "thriving, vibrant place".
Lidl is currently reviewing the feedback from public consultations before submitting its plan to build a new store on the site of the Mercure Hotel on Wetherby Road.
Better Wetherby said they had been contacted by many people concerned about the plans.
"The town is already well served with many excellent independent shops along with two supermarkets - Morrisons and ALDI – and food stores such as Marks and Spencer, the Co-op and Sainsburys Local", the group said.
Chair of Better Wetherby, Roger Owen, said “It is significant that in July 2012, Leeds Planning Authority refused an application by Sainburys to demolish the Mercure Hotel and replace it with a supermarket.
"So when the leaflet from Lidl arrived in my letterbox, there was a strong feeling of déjà vu.
"The grounds for refusal a decade ago included that it would have a significant adverse impact on the vitality and viability of Wetherby town centre, basically that it would have serious and negative consequences for local town centre shops and furthermore it would be harmful to the character and appearance of the adjacent Conservation Area.
"The reasons given for refusal then remain valid today, and I feel, even more so.”
Mr Owen highlighted that since the refusal of the Sainsbury’s application a decade ago, the Leeds City Council Site Allocation Plan (SAP) has been published.
The SAP identifies sites for housing, employment, retail and green-space to ensure that enough land is available in appropriate locations to meet the growth targets.
The SAP states that this particular site is suitable for older persons housing/independent living if the hotel is to go.
It also highlights the fact that the site affects the setting of the Wetherby Conservation Area and any future development should preserve or enhance the character or appearance of the Conservation Area.
Mr Owen added “Better Wetherby strongly oppose the Lidl proposal. It is clear to my colleagues and I that the impact of a large new store built at this important gateway to the town, will be considerable, as noted in 2012. It will undoubtedly have profound and negative consequences for Wetherby, especially on our excellent local shops.
"The same decision would equally apply if another large supermarket wished to build on this site. I encourage local people to respond to Lidl with a clear message that this is the wrong place for a new store.”
The Better Wetherby Partnership is a consortium of local people from a variety of organisations who contribute to initiatives designed to help make Wetherby and the surrounding villages better for the community of both present and future generations.
A spokesperson from Lidl GB said: “We are delighted to progress plans to bring our first store to Wetherby, which will offer residents of the town and the surrounding area increased shopping choice and access to Lidl’s high quality and affordable produce.
"Our proposals also include the provision of a retirement living facility and care home on the site. As part of our ongoing and comprehensive community consultation, we have written to homes within the local area and are pleased that so far around 2,000 people have responded and we are incredibly pleased with the strong support that the plans for this site have received.
“If approved, the new Lidl store would represent a multi-million pound investment into the local area and the creation of around 40 new jobs for the community. The store would also deliver Lidl’s much-loved instore bakery, electric vehicle charging spaces and customer toilets with baby changing facilities.
"The retirement living and care home facility could create a further 70 full and part-time jobs. We would like to take this opportunity to thank everyone who has taken the time to respond to the consultation. We will now review all of the feedback from the community so far, ahead of submitting planning in the coming weeks.“