Lidl refusing to guarantee future of Paignton town centre store
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Retailer Lidl is refusing to guarantee keeping its Paignton town centre branch open for ten years as a condition of being allowed to build a new out-of-town store.
It says Torbay Council is suggesting a legal agreement to keep the town centre store trading in Victoria Square, as part of a deal for a new outlet off the A380 Kings Ash Road.
But the store giant says that would be 'wholly unacceptable and unreasonable' and it is refusing to agree to the condition.
The issue has come up during discussions about a planning application submitted to the council for the new store.
The council’s future planning team says an agreement to keep open the Lidl in Victoria Square open would offset the loss of trade from the town centre to the new store.
But Lidl says the council has over-estimated the impact which would not be significant.
It says the condition would be unfair and unreasonable, as the council could not refuse an application from another retailer because it might lead to the closure of the town centre Lidl.
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It says the the council has allocated the site off Kings Ash Road in the Great Parks growth area as a local centre and must have considered the future impact on the town centre.
A letter setting out Lidl’s position adds: “Forcing Lidl to keep the town centre store open for a minimum of ten years is neither fairly nor reasonably related in scale and kind to the development.”
It says Lidl now considers it was wrong to sign an agreement with the council for its White Rock store which required the town centre branch to stay open until January 30, 2024, and it will refuse a similar request.
Victoria Square has been identified for future redevelopment with a leisure complex including a cinema, which would mean Lidl leaving the site, and the retailer says it is prepared to hold talks with the council about how it can help with the scheme.
The letter to the council, from RPS Consulting Services on behalf of the retailer, responds to a series of issues raised over the planning application for the 4.5acre Kings Ash Road site, which includes a new junction for access to future new homes in the Great Parks area.
Lidl has agreed to add plans for two new small shops in the car park area as part of the local centre, but is proposing they are only built if there is demand from occupiers after the main store starts trading.
The council is questioning the size of the proposed store, saying the retail space would be almost three times what was proposed for the local centre in the masterplan and would conflict with local planning policies.
But Lidl says the store size guide was not properly worked out and should be ignored.
It says it would not be big enough to serve the local population and would only attract a small store such as a Tesco Extra or Sainsbury’s Local, which would not offer a wide enough range of stock.
The letter says a smaller store would do little to tackle food poverty in the area as they were generally more expensive than bigger outlets, carried little fresh produce, and customers would still need to do their main shop elsewhere.
It adds: “The Lidl store would also offer twice the number of jobs a smaller convenience store would. The value of these jobs as Torbay recovers from the Covid pandemic cannot be overestimated.”
The letter said the scale of the proposals was 'wholly appropriate' according to the Local Plan, and similar size developments had been approved for local centres in Paignton at White Rock and Yannons Farm.
A decision on the application is expected to be made by the council’s planning committee.