Objectors to discuss Lidl store application

Objectors to discuss Lidl store application

8 January 2020

A PLANNERS’ recommendation to approve a new £3m Lidl store in Newcastle will be discussed by local politicians at a meeting in Newry this morning.

The supermarket giant is seeking permission for the new store at the former St Mary’s Girls’ Primary School site in the town.

The development proposal also includes a new £500,000 base for the Mourne Mountain Rescue Team at the 3.5 acre Shanslieve Drive site in the resort.

Entrance to the proposed store will be via Bryansford Road, with the planners’ approval recommendation due to be discussed at this morning’s meeting of Newry, Mourne and Down Council’s Planning Committee.

Plans to redevelop the former primary school site were originally submitted in January 2018 with permission being sought to bulldoze the existing school to pave the way for the construction of a new food store and the dedicated centre for the volunteers who run the mountain rescue team. Lidl claims its proposal will create an additional 12 jobs.

In late November, the local council confirmed that outline permission granted in March for the multi-million pound development was to be quashed as a result of a judicial review brought by developer Don Holdings Ltd.

However, days later the agenda for the December meeting of the Planning Committee included a planners’ recommendation to approve the new store proposal. The recommendation was subsequently withdrawn, but features on the agenda for today’s meeting with a recommendation to approve.

Permission has also been granted to a number of people to address today’s Planning Committee meeting.

Due to address councillors are planning consultant, Andy Stephens, who is objecting to the proposal, while Seamus McMullan Architects have requested to address politicians on behalf of Dr M Rooney who is also opposed to the Lidl proposal.

Further speaking rights requests have been received from Conleth Rooney BL on behalf of Don Holdings Ltd, objecting to the application, with Lidl’s Norther Ireland Regional Director Conor Boyle and Nicholas McCrickard from the Mourne Mountain Rescue Team, also due to address committee members.

The development proposal includes plans for almost 150 parking spaces, eight of which are reserved for mountain rescue team members. 

A new pedestrian crossing at the Bryansford Road junction with Shimna Road forms part of the proposal, with planners receiving 17 objections. Five letters in support of the new rescue team base proposal have also been lodged.

In papers submitted ahead of today’s meeting, planners reaffirm that none of the statutory consultees including the Department for Infrastructure, Rivers Agency, Environment Agency and the local environmental health department, have lodged any objections to the redevelopment of the former school site. 

Lidl has consistently argued that its current base at Railway Street in Newcastle is too small to allow the store to carry the company’s full range of goods, highlighting issues with narrow aisles and inadequate parking provision.

The store argues the Railway Street base was only supposed to be a temporary home until a larger unit could be found. Lidl says it has been looking for an alternative town centre site for over decade without success until the Shanslieve Drive site became available, with the planned mountain rescue team centre providing the volunteers with a permanent base.

Lidl said a large number of reports have been submitted with the planning application which confirm that the proposal will have no “adverse effects” on the environment or amenity of local residents.

In addition, the supermarket giant says its development plan will regenerate a brownfield site with “modern, attractive buildings and has significant economic benefits”.

Objectors to the new store proposal claim that there are “serious errors” in the transport assessment submitted in conjunction with the application, inaccurate land ownership information, unachievable visibility spays and out-of-season traffic surveys.

In addition, it will be argued today that in determining the planning application and making a recommendation to councillors, the local authority has done so without a thorough assessment having been undertaken and without being furnished with all the necessary information required to support a robust decision that the “proposal to build on any particular site is acceptable, in principle”.