Approval granted for retail park with Aldi store on outskirts of Saffron Walden

PUBLISHED: 18:09 08 May 2013 | UPDATED: 18:39 08 May 2013

An artist's impression of Granite's plans for Thaxted Road.

An artist's impression of Granite's plans for Thaxted Road.

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BUDGET supermarket chain Aldi is coming to Saffron Walden after a proposal for a retail park on a site originally earmarked by Sainsbury’s was given approval.

Uttlesford District Council’s planning committee granted permission, with conditions, for work to begin on building a discount foodstore, cafe, garden centre, and three retail warehouse units on the site of the former recycling centre on Thaxted Road.

It comes 12 months on from Sainsbury’s final attempt to seek approval for a new superstore in the town – an application eventually rejected by the Planning Inspectorate, after a public inquiry, on the basis it would harm town centre businesses.

The retail park will create approximately 90 jobs, according to the applicant – Granite Property Development – while the Aldi store will be less than a third of the size of the proposed Sainsbury’s.

Planners approved the application despite concerns being raised about the development’s impact on town centre trade and increases in traffic, particularly around the Thaxted Road and Radwinter Road junction.

Saffron Walden Town Council had objected to the plans and mayor David Watson addressed the committee.

He said: “We objected not on the principle of job creation, but because of the inclusion of out-of-town shopping in the proposal. If these items were removed then the town council would not be objecting.”

He also said other sites to address the need for a discount food store had been identified, such as the fire station and Emson Close, which people in the community were in favour of.

Tony Tapley, consultant for Rapley’s, the agent acting on behalf of Granite, said those sites were “not large enough to accommodate Aldi, let alone this wider scheme”.

Cllr Janice Loughlin was in favour of the proposal and had voted to approve the previous application for a Sainsbury’s on the site.

“Unfortunately we don’t live in the days of a Hovis advert where it’s all very romantic and people go up to the local shops to buy their bread – that doesn’t happen any more.

“Younger people want somewhere they can afford to shop and a discount food store would help. People want choice. Out of town shopping is the way to go even though some may not like it,” she said.

Cllr Doug Perry said he “did not like” the proposal but could not find good enough planning reasons to object.

He told members to look at “the bigger picture” of potential traffic problems, a sentiment shared by councillors Eric Hicks, Vic Ranger, and Bob Eastham.

But Maria Tourvas, the case officer, said studies had shown there would only be “a slight increase” in vehicle movements on Saturdays.

She also said the products to be offered by the discount food store would be “completely different” from Sainsbury’s and those offered by other town centre business.

The committee voted to approve the application by 11 votes to one. Cllr Perry abstained and Cllr Eastham voted against.

After the meeting, director of Granite, Ian Lipman, said it was hoped work on the site could begin in the summer and that it was expected the retail aspect would be completed within two years.

Cllr Watson called the decision to approve the application “appalling” and a “very sad day for Saffron Walden”, which he said would put the vitality of the town centre under threat once again.

He went on to say approval for the scheme may lead to a further application to expand the Thaxted Road site in the future – with a hotel, family restaurant such as Frankie & Benny’s, or a pub previously mentioned as possible additions.

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