Pictures: Discount food store earmarked as part of major regeneration plans

BUDGET food store Aldi is just one of the names in the frame to sign up to plans for a major regeneration project which also includes a DIY outlet and cafe on the site originally earmarked by Sainsbury’s.

The Reporter understands that B&Q could be in talks with Granite, the developer which owns the eight- acre plot of land off Thaxted Road, about opening a new outlet on the site, while it is a race between Aldi, Lidl and Farmfoods to take on the proposed discount food store.

But opponents have hit back at the scheme – arguing that the arrival of a discount food chain would have a negative impact on the town centre, as was suggested with Sainsbury’s.

Paul Gadd, spokesman for Save Walden Town Centre, the campaign group set up to oppose the Sainsbury’s application, told the Reporter: “This is the wrong place to put a food store – it should be in the town centre. It won’t have the same impact as Sainsbury’s because that was three times as big but it is still going to hamper the town centre.

“They say it will stop people travelling out of Saffron Walden to shop at discount food stores in places like Haverhill but evidence from the Sainsbury’s inquiry showed that doesn’t happen anyway.”

Also in the proposals are a cafe, two retail warehouses – likely to be either electrical or furniture stores – and 243 car parking spaces.

Despite public demand for a filling station, as had previously been proposed by Sainsbury’s and approved by UDC, consultants for the developer said there was no interest in an operator signing up to it – suggesting it reflected a national trend which has led to filling stations being sold off in towns like Saffron Walden.

Most Read

However, future plans could see a hotel, family restaurant such as Frankie & Benny’s or a pub being built on the land previously earmarked for the filling station, if the current proposal is approved.

Tony Tapley, planning consultant for Rapley’s, the firm working on behalf of Granite, said: “This plan provides facilities which we do not believe are in competition with what is already in the town.

“We understand the concerns about the town centre and feel this addresses them because nothing here could fit in the town centre itself.

“These are realistic proposals which can deliver a benefit to Saffron Walden by providing shops which will not compete with existing ones and will save people having to leave town to do their bulky shopping.”

Granite is aiming to submit a full planning application in January and is keen to receive feedback from the public about the plans.

Exhibitions were held at the Lord Butler Leisure Centre yesterday and Tuesday as part of the consultation but comments are also welcome via the application on the council’s website.

Mr Tapley confirmed a contractual agreement meant Sainsbury’s still had first refusal on the site until the beginning of next year but that Granite had been assured the superstore giant did not intend to act on it.