Asda accused of ‘throwing kitchen sink’ at Lidl as new Medway store plans get council nod

By Ciaran Duggan, Local Democracy Reporter

Photo: Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images)

Asda has been accused of “throwing the kitchen sink” at a supermarket rival as resubmitted plans to build the first ever Lidl store in Medway edge closer.

The German chain, which owns more than 800 shops in the UK, was forced to send the application to Medway Council for a second time following a successful legal challenge from the British retail giant on 27 July.

Plans to construct a Lidl store on a 1,669 sq m site near Gillingham’s Medway Road and A289 Pier Road received the backing of the authority’s planning committee on 3 April.

But a judge revoked the permission on a “technical ground” as the original council decision was made in the early stages of the coronavirus pandemic.

Consequently, the proposal was resubmitted to Medway Council and on 19 August ten councillors unanimously approved the Lidl application during a crunch public meeting which was held online and at Chatham’s Gun Wharf.

Meanwhile, Asda continues the fight after sending a further letter of objection to Local Government Secretary Robert Jenrick over concerns around flood-risk and lack of a screening test. It means Jenrick will have the final say.

During the hybrid meeting, Rainham councillor Martin Potter (Con) accused the British supermarket retailer of “throwing the kitchen sink” in opposition to the plan due to concerns about a major competitor on its doorstep.

Asda owns a superstore just half a mile away from the proposed Lidl site near A289 Pier Road. It claims the neighbouring store plans are “unlawful”.

Howvever, Cllr Potter said: “I think the knock-out blow on Gillingham town centre was from the big Asda superstore across the way on Chatham Waters.

“I don’t recall Asda raising all these issues of concern when their application came before the committee here.”

Medway Council received a further 24 letters of support from residents in relation to the Lidl scheme. They expressed the “need” for the cheap goods store in the Towns and said it would increase consumer choice.

This comes after Lidl said the development would lead to the creation of 40 new jobs. It would also see a brownfield site brought back into use. Around 97 parking spaces and 10 cycle spots would also be provided near the site.

The controversial plans were deferred between January and April following opposition from supermarket giants Tesco and Asda but later approved on 3 April on the basis they would provide a wider options for shoppers.

Cllr Diane Chambers (Con), the planning committee chairperson, expressed her fears around more congestion in the area despite supporting the application.

She said: “I do have one concern and always had this and that is regarding traffic and the location of this in relation to the very busy roundabout immediately outside Chatham Waters, but that will remain to be seen.”

Concluding, Medway Council’s head of planning, Dave Harris, said the Lidl application will go ahead if the Secretary of State does not think that an “environmental assessment” is necessary.