A controversial planning application for a new Lidl in Swallownest, Rotherham has been rejected, against officers’ recommendations.
Councillors voted to reject the application, which was recommended for approval by officers, on the basis of the “detrimental” impact the new store would have on businesses in the centre of Swallownest.
The German discount retailer applied to build a 1,880 sqm supermarket on land off Rotherham Road, as well as the demolition of the Christ Church building, and part of Swallownest Miners Welfare that is currently on the site.
The church building on site was approved in 1993 as a temporary building for ten years, and was required to be removed from the site after that time period. The Church of England has confirmed it is no longer required.
As part of the application, Lidl applied to demolish and replace the changing rooms on the site, which is home to Swallownest FC, which will have to be completed before the store is opened.
According to the company, the development would create around 40 new jobs, as well as shopping facilities for residents.
The proposal includes 98 parking spaces, of which seven spaces will be for disabled users, eight spaces for parent and child users, and space for 14 bicycles.
Rotherham Council has received 78 objections to the proposal, including from both the Aldi store which is under construction off Swallow Wood Road, the Co-op, as well as Aston Parish Council, and 51 comments in support of the scheme.
Objectors are concerned over highway safety along Rotherham Road, the safety of parents and children at the nearby Swallownest Pre-School and Swallownest Primary School.
Swallownest Parish Council objected on a number of grounds, such as road safety issues, pollution form the 2,500 vehicles forecast to visit the supermarket daily, parking and noise for residents in the vicinity, early and late deliveries and the potential for anti-social behaviour on the car park at night.
However, the council’s highway officer and environmental health officer have raised no concerns regarding any additional traffic, and say “any increase would not be readily noticeable to residents”.
A letter of support from Glenn Watts, chairman of the board of trustees at Swallownest FC, was read at the meeting of Rotherham Council’s planning board on September 24, and said that the club could have “disappeared for good” after a fire in 2017, and the club’s recreational facilities were needed “now more than ever.”
His letter added: “[the application] offers us the opportunity to bring in private investment and grant aids, and improve our facilities with better car parking, new changing rooms, and a new pitch. We simply would not be able to deliver these improvements.
“Why should people miss out on what we can offer?”
However, a number of objectors spoke at the meeting, including Matthew Parker, the owner of Dels Supermarket on High Street, who warned if the application were to be approved, he would “probably have to close”, and let his 14 staff go as a result.
He urged councillors to reject the application, and told the meeting that his father had opened the supermarket in 1972, adding: “This would have a devastating effect on the central shopping areas. I’m not just speaking on behalf of me. I’m speaking on behalf of the local shops, the small shops and the other convenience shops, around the area.”
Another objector, Carolann Jones, told the meeting the new Lidl would: “tear the heart out of the designated shopping area, and will lead to a domino effect of shops, such as our bakery our chemists, coffee shop, our phone shop and coffee shop closing, as the area has a rapid decline in the number of people visiting.”
Michelle Davies, on behalf of the applicant, said: “This proposal represents a significant investment by Lidl into the local area and will create 40 full and part time new employment opportunities for local people, as well as associated construction jobs. Capital generated by the scheme will also allow both the current occupiers of the site, the miners welfare club, and Christ Church to further invest in the local community.
“An overwhelming theme from our public consultation exercise of this scheme has been dissatisfaction amongst the community about the lack of choice in terms of local supermarkets, especially for those residents who are reliant on public transport, as well as the high prices locally.”