Proposal for an out-of-town retail park with Aldi supermarket splits councillors

An artist's impression of Granite's plans for a retail park off Thaxted Road.

An artist's impression of Granite's plans for a retail park off Thaxted Road. - Credit: Archant

PLANS to build a discount food store as part of a wider scheme for an out-of-town retail park on a site previously earmarked by Sainsbury’s have divided town councillors.

The application includes a proposal to open budget supermarket Aldi alongside a garden centre, cafe, car parking and DIY store – with B&Q believed to be the frontrunners – on an eight-acre plot of land off Thaxted Road in Saffron Walden.

Last spring a planning inspector ruled after a public inquiry that a Sainsbury’s store would have caused significant harm to the town centre and its businesses.

Landowner Granite Property Developments already has outline planning permission for the site but members of the town council were split on whether to support or oppose the full application at a full council meeting on Wednesday (March 13).

Mayor David Watson had the overriding say after the vote was tied six-a-piece and he chose to oppose the proposal.

“The site is crying out to be developed but I have grave reservations about this proposal because an out-of-town shop like Aldi will have exactly the same effect on the town as Sainsbury’s would have done,” he said.

“I think it’s possible to include another food store in the town centre with a bit of imagination but if it goes outside it could be the time the town starts to lose its shops.”

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Cllr Beryl Wardley welcomed the proposal. “People tell me there is limited choice in the town. They’re wondering why the Sainsbury’s application failed twice and now another Tesco store is taking over the Crocus without anybody being able to do anything about it,” she said.

“My feeling is people would like a discount food store and it might actually bring more people into Saffron Walden.”

Cllr David James Sadler added: “Speaking as someone from a lower income background I can see the attractiveness of a discount food store and the jobs it will create.”

But Cllr Ben Balliger hit back. “In a town like Saffron Walden you don’t just suddenly create employment, normally you are taking it from other places,” he said.

Cllr Heather Asker raised concerns about the potential impact on the town centre, along with Cllr Nick Osborne, who said: “There will be free parking there, which the town centre cannot provide, and we are going to increase traffic flow through the town to that place.”

It was decided the council would submit an official response to Uttlesford’s planning committee objecting to the plans on the grounds of the “potential loss of amenities, traffic issues and concerns about aesthetics”.

The proposal is due to come before planning chiefs at UDC on May 8.