Lidl’s £3.2m Newcastle store gets green light

Lidl’s £3.2m Newcastle store gets green light

24 November 2021

PLANS for a new £3.2m Lidl store in Newcastle have been given the green light.

Formal planning approval for the new store came at last week’s meeting of Newry, Mourne and Down Council’s Planning Committee.

The development proposal — which includes a dedicated new base for the Mourne Mountain Rescue Team — relates to the former St Mary’s Girls’ Primary School site in the resort.

Outline approval for the supermarket was initially granted for the multi-million pound development in October last year, with the formal approval granted last week featuring a new entrance off the Bryansford Road.

As part of the development proposal, Lidl intends to demolish the former primary school to pave the way for the new 2,134 square metre store and provide 147 parking spaces in tandem with a landscaping proposal.

The proposed new 656 square metre base for the mountain rescue team, which is expected to cost in the region of £500,000 to build, has parking provision for eight vehicles, alongside four disabled spaces and an additional four reserved for parents and toddlers.

Plans to redevelop the former primary school site were originally submitted in January 2018 to replace Lidl’s existing base at Railway Street in the resort.

And while permission for the store was initially granted, it was subsequently quashed as the result of a procedural error in relation to the papers submitted to the local authority’s Planning Committee.

A new pedestrian crossing at the Bryansford Road junction with Shimna Road forms part of the proposal.

Lidl 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.

Lidl said the Railway Street base was only supposed to be a temporary home until a larger unit could be found, with Lidl insisting that it has been looking for an alternative town centre site for over decade without success until the former primary school site became available.

A number of objections were lodged with planners, including that the development was not in keeping with the residential nature of the area and that the closure of the retailer’s existing store would have a detrimental impact on Newcastle town centre and surrounding inconvenience stores.

Concern was also expressed about the proposed store’s impact on traffic and the potential for increased flooding.

During last week’s Planning Committee meeting it was confirmed that in order to comply with the recommended planning approval, developers must adhere to 22 conditions varying from the use of floodlights on-site to a final drainage assessment.

However, concerns were raised by a private company Don Holdings Ltd — which has planning approval for the construction of a neighbouring apartment block — over the “lawfulness” of the new supermarket proposal.

They claimed Lidl Northern Ireland had not provided a sufficient detailed site plan and called on the local authority to investigate the claims.

In addition, the company raised concerns over the access route into the site, which they claim causes “road safety issues”.

In an objection letter to the planning committee, solicitors on behalf of Don Holding Ltd said: “It is important to note that our client does not object to the concept of a Lidl store and Mountain Rescue Centre on this site, however, the current application is fundamentally flawed.

“We have serious concerns that members [councillors] are being asked to make a decision based on inaccurate information, which is especially concerning when it leads to significant public safety issues.”

However, council officers said that the objectors failed to identify a planning policy that showed why the council had made the wrong decision in recommending the application for approval.

A council planning officer told last week’s meeting that there was nothing in planning policy or legislation that says that “you should refuse an application if the applicant cannot demonstrate ownership of land.”

The officer continued: “The objectors haven’t referred to any policy or legislation and planning applications get approved all the time in circumstances that applicants don’t own land.

“It’s up to the applicant before they commence development, to have the necessary title before they continue with that development. This case is no different to any other application that would cause members to refuse this application.”

At the conclusion of the planning meeting, councillors unanimously backed the planners’ approval recommendation on a proposal by Mournes councillor Glyn Hanna which was seconded by Crotlieve councillor Gerry O’Hare.