Opposition is building to a discount retailer's plans to demolish a local gym and their existing store so they can replace it with a new larger store.
Over 250 letters of objection have been received to Lidl's proposal to build a new foodstore at Summerfields Village Centre - adjacent to their existing store, on the site currently occupied by the energi Fitness Club.
Campaigners have received support from Tatton MP Esther Vey who has written to Cheshire East Council to raise her concerns about the application on behalf of the considerable number of her Constituents who have contacted her.
She wrote "The planning policies being used to support this application appear not to be relevant where a store is being relocated within an area and only apply for a brand new store arriving for the first time on a site and in several areas the development is contrary to policies contained in the new Cheshire East Local Plan.
"The Macclesfield Borough plan references this location as a 'local centre'. Within the Macclesfield Borough plan, as a 'local centre', there needs to be a proven need for the development and I don't believe that case has been made. Lidl are already in the location (albeit in an old store) and this new store is not therefore fulfilling an untapped need, even though they will be able to offer a wider selection. In fact, by moving the store into the new location the number of retail outlets in the area decreases as Energi includes 6 small retailers who will no longer be there. None of those businesses offer services replicated anywhere else in the neighbourhood centre.
In terms of the new Cheshire East local plan, there is reference to policy SG5. This location is neither a Key Service Centre or a Local Service Centre, therefore falls under 'other settlements'. The policy states that the focus, for other settlements, is on providing retail services of appropriate scale and nature for the needs of the local community. The new larger store expands beyond the local area needs and into the wider area taking on a development of a Key Service Centre or Local Service Centre.
Policies SC1 and SC2 of the Cheshire East local plan also relate to this development. SC1 'seeks to protect and enhance existing leisure and recreation facilities' and SC2 protects existing sports facilities unless there is alternative provision or they are surplus to requirements. As I understand it the club has circa 3000 members which would make it difficult to argue it was surplus to requirements. The same policy states that a proposal can't result in a loss of area important for its amenity.
"In conclusion, this is not about a new supermarket adding variety or competition in an area, but a supermarket moving within their area to increase their size of their store and update. This is a designated 'local 'centre, where the focus is on providing a variety of retail services appropriate to the area, by moving and replacing the gym and associated businesses, there is going to be a less diverse offering and a store out of size for the location within a local, neighbourhood centre.
"The removal of the Gym also seems to be directly at odds with policies contained within the Cheshire East local plan."
Lidl's replacement store will be approximately twice the scale of the existing Lidl store and be served by a total of 137 parking spaces, including six disabled and eight parent and child spaces, together with cycle parking facilities.
The new store will offer an identical range of goods to the existing store, along with an expansion of the bakery product lines following the introduction of an in-store bakery.
The additional sales floorspace will allow for wider aisles, larger product displays and more spacious circulation area on entry to the store, whilst the extra non-sales floorspace will provide for a large pallet freezer, bakery preparation area, customer toilets, more storage space and improved staff accommodation.
Wilmslow Town Council also voted unanimously to recommend Lidl's application for refusal at their planning committee meeting on Monday, 21st August, which was attended by local residents, members of energie gym and representatives from Lidl's PR company.
They have objected to the application on the grounds that the proposal conflicts with the Cheshire East Local Plan.
Their objection states "The Planning Committee note that the location of the proposed development is not a 'Town Centre' as indicated in the proposal. Wilmslow Town Council Planning Committee believe that the argument for a 'proven need' at this location has not been made and that the loss of the existing D2 facility would reduce the service offer at this location. Wilmslow Town Council's Planning Committee believes that the existing store meets the needs on a site which is considered to be neither a 'Key Service Centre' or a 'Local Service Centre' in the Local Plan.
"Wilmslow Town Council's Planning Committee highlight Policies SC1 and SC2 of the Cheshire East Local Plan and believes that the size of the membership, the absence of an alternative within walking distance and the range of services available should ensure that these policies rightly protect this leisure and recreation facility."
If planning permission is granted then Lidl proposes to phase the development so the existing store will remain in operation whilst the new store is constructed and will cease trading and be demolished to provide car parking on the opening of the replacement store.
All existing members of staff will be transferred to the new store and it is expected that two additional full-time and 10 to 15 additional part-time jobs will be created.
The new Lidl store will be single storey, lower in height when than the existing 2-storey fitness club building, and will generally occupy the footprint of the existing fitness club. The store entrance will face towards the neighbouring retail parade, with customer car parking provided between the new and existing buildings.
The replacement store's opening hours will be 7am to 10pm Monday to Saturdays and for a six-hour period between 10am and 5pm on Sundays. Whilst the existing store car park is available for customers to use free of charge for up to 60 minutes, this period of time will be extended to 90 minutes when the new store is opened.
Lidl UK's Regional Head of Property, Stuart Jardine, commented: "Our current Wilmslow store is extremely popular but is no longer able to meet the needs of our customers. An opportunity has arisen to purchase the property currently occupied by the Energie Fitness Club, which means that we can improve our retail offering in Wilmslow."
Stuart Jardine added: "A new, more modern store will allow us to stock a wider range of products and improve the shopping experience for our customers. The proposed new store is only metres away from the current store, which will result in a smooth transition for our regular customers."
Lidl's planning application can be viewed on the Cheshire East Council website by searching for planning reference 17/3208M. The last date for submitting comments is 31st August and a decision is expected by 22nd September.
Updated: Wednesday 30th August - A petition containing 600 signatures of local residents and gym members who are opposed to the building of a new Lidl store on the site of energie gym, and calling for Cheshire East Council to reject the planning application, was delivered to Macclesfield Town Hall on Tuesday, 29th August.