Decision on discount supermarket's controversial plans deferred


The decision on a discount retailer's controversial planning application to demolish a gym and their existing store so they can replace it with a new larger store has been deferred.

The Northern Planning Committee met today (Wednesday, 6th December) to discuss Lidl's proposal to build a new foodstore at Summerfields immediately adjacent to their existing store. The site is currently occupied by the energi Fitness Club - the directors of which recently announced their plans to close the gym at the end of the year.

Councillor Craig Browne, who sits on the Northern Planning Committee as Vice Chair, said "The Lidl application was deferred, pending the provision of a sequential economic impact assessment, clarification on how the proposal will meet parking standards and an air quality assessment on the site."

Cheshire East Council has received 415 letters objecting to the scheme. Amongst the issues raised are: no need for a larger store; loss of health and social facility; no alternative gym nearby; loss of jobs within health club; several supermarkets in local area; loss of privacy to residents; size of building is inappropriate; building is out of character with local area; impact on wildlife; site is not in a town centre and loss of parking spaces.

A petition containing approximately 600 signatures has also been delivered to Cheshire East Council objecting to the proposal on the grounds that the gym is situated in a residential area for locals and others to use; further traffic problems within this area are unacceptable to residents and the proposed loss of number of mature trees to make way for new building / delivery area.

Wilmslow Town Council's Planning Committee recommend refusal of this application on the grounds that the location is not a 'Town Centre' as indicated in the proposal; the argument for a 'proven need' at this location has not been made; the loss of the existing D2 facility would reduce the service offer at this location and 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.

Twenty-five letters supporting the proposal were also received, commenting that the improvements will be great; the existing store is not big enough and there are too many gyms.

The Planning Officer had recommended that the Northern Planning Committee approve the application subject to conditions - stating "It is evident that there is strong local opposition to the loss of the existing gym. However, it has been demonstrated for the purposes of planning policy that the existing fitness centre is surplus to requirements, given the availability of other indoor leisure facilities in the local area. The proposal is also in accordance with local and national retail planning policy. The proposal complies with all relevant policies of the development plan and is therefore a sustainable form of development. In accordance with policy MP1 of the CELPS, the application should therefore be approved without delay."

Lidl, Northern Planning Committee


Here's what readers have had to say so far. Why not add your thoughts below.

Christian Hurstfield
Wednesday 6th December 2017 at 3:18 pm
issues raised are:

no need for a larger store - current store at peak times is crammed, new store layout is much more upmarket and will stop that area from looking so drab and cheap

loss of health and social facility - plenty of gyms around, if you want a convenient gym then you're going for the wrong reason

no alternative gym nearby - as above, quick drive to Total Fitness/Fit4Less/Lifestyle Fitness

loss of jobs within health club - but more accessible jobs created through Lidl

several supermarkets in local area - not a Lidl though

loss of privacy to residents - new building is proposed to be lower than current gym so privacy is increased

size of building is inappropriate - totally appropriate size to cope with demand

building is out of character with local area - local area of shops? its not residential

impact on wildlife - none that wouldnt have already been impacted through the gym/rest of the shopping district being built

site is not in a town centre - it is already a shopping district though

and loss of parking spaces - by creating a larger store with more parking spaces?
Mark Goldsmith
Wednesday 6th December 2017 at 6:19 pm
@Christian Hurstfield:

Not sure if you are conveying what was discussed at the meeting or just conveying your own views.

Anyway, to counter the points you raise:

1) Current store rarely has all 6 tills open, which is why it gets crammed. Lidl could hire a few more staff instead, rather than build a new store. The current drab store could be revamped as other retailers do all the time. A new store will see them vacate the old store, which will therefore remain drab. It will likely remain disused or become another charity shop. So this won't help revamp the shopping experience of the centre at all.

Lidl only wants to build a new store because Aldi are rumoured to come to Handforth Dean. Building a new store also means they can carry on trading with no disruption to business nor loss of customers during a refit that would probably coincide with a brand new Aldi opening.

2) Plenty of supermarkets around - far more in fact than gyms or swimming pools. So why does this argument only work one way? And please explain how driving far away to a gym makes you fitter? The less time you spend travelling = the more time exercising, surely?

3) The exact same argument applies for supermarkets.

4) Lidl will create 2 new full time jobs. Closing Energie will lose 18 full time jobs. You do the maths. For "accessible" do you actually mean "low skilled and low paid"?

5) No Lidl in the local area? Err, there is already a Lidl 50ft away. Surely even Cheshire East Planners can figure that out.

6) Yes, but the gym doesn't have lorries arriving at all hours or the volume of cars that Lidl will generate.

7,8) Okay - cant disagree with these points

9) Impact on wildlife. Well not in the immediate wildlife but what of the environmental impact? Tearing down a perfectly good building and wasting the materials used to build it. Plus more car journeys to gyms further away means more traffic and car pollution. And what about the economic damage of losing a thriving business that has made a profit for 20 years? Who pays for the welfare of the staff who can't get into new jobs straight away? Not Lidl that's for sure.

10) The site is not a shopping centre. It is adjacent to a shopping centre but was deemed for leisure use, hence the need for a change of usage.

11) Yes, the car spaces are extra.

The whole point is that this move will cost jobs and lose popular local facilities with almost nothing to gain for it. And just so Lidl doesn't lose as much business to Aldi when it arrives.

Is this really worth such wholesale corporate vandalism?

Not in my world.
Clive Cooksey
Wednesday 6th December 2017 at 6:22 pm
I bet more than half the whingers shop there for the bargains. The council says it wants to examine impact of wildlife. Woh! I have just stopped laughing. Do they mean the many moggies strolling around eating what birdlife they can catch or what? Yet again our neighbour Knutsford gets their Aldi expanded. (There are other super markets there also moaners). Lovely restaurants get opened. Anything that town asks for it seems to get without people moaning about the wrong things. If you want to be a good grouch, then complain about a fields being stolen. .
Wednesday 6th December 2017 at 7:30 pm
Clive - Knutsford has an Aldi. It is next to the railway station and within the designated town centre. That is the big difference. If Lidl was prepared to have a site in Wilmslow Town Centre or in Handforth Town Centre then there wouldn't be such a problem,but then, of course, they would have substantially higher costs to purchase either the land or in terms of lease which they are are apparently unwilling to do. In 2016 when Lidl first mooted its idea of a larger store most of the Paddock in Handforth was standing empty but I didn't observe Lidl rush to take any leases there.
Janet Taylor
Wednesday 6th December 2017 at 8:16 pm
Guess we've all missed the gym has entered a CVA and is closing at Christmas. No jobs there in January anyway. Personally I don't shop at Lidl but I do live adjacent, don't care either way, I think we've got much bigger issues to deal with as far as planning is concerned.
Mark Goldsmith
Thursday 7th December 2017 at 7:10 am
@Janet Taylor

The gym has been profitable for 20 years and was forced into the CVA by Lidl's actions.

Yes, it is now stopping trading but it doesn't mean we have to lose the facilities. It can always re-open if the lease is renewed.

I agree there are other bigger planning issues, but this application just highlights how Cheshire East are always backing big developers, no matter how weak or obscure their reasoning is eg Sommerfields is now in Wilmslow Town Centre (but estate agents would be fined for claiming this).
Christian Hurstfield
Thursday 7th December 2017 at 10:49 am
@Mark Goldsmith:

Not sure if you are conveying what was discussed at the meeting or just conveying your own views. - didn't need to change this as seems equally applicable to yourself based on your responses, and meeting or no meeting, views are always personal..?

Anyway, to counter the points you raise:

1) Been there on several occasions and varying times throughout the day where all 6 were open and it was the same level of over-population.
Anyone can speculate about what the old store will become, maybe if people stopped shopping at charity shops then they won't have such an impact? etc etc

"Building a new store also means they can carry on trading with no disruption to business nor loss of customers during a refit that would probably coincide with a brand new Aldi opening." yes correct, this is sound business processing....

2) Plenty of different supermarkets around, yes, but people with sense know where to shop to save money, the quality and price of Lidl produce and many other items is better than any Sainsburys/Tescos/Morrisons I've ever been to, so one would assume this contrast is seen by the many and not the few.

I can drive from Lidl to Total Fitness in about 5 minutes, no detriment to fitness, its not the time you put in, its the effort.

3) The exact same argument applies for supermarkets. - see point 2

4) Are you saying gym staff are highly skilled and highly paid? Might want to research that one. The few that are will have no problems getting into another gym.

5) No Lidl in the local area? Err, there is already a Lidl 50ft away. Surely even Cheshire East Planners can figure that out. - Slightly childish response there.

6) I don't believe lorries "arrive at all hours", they arrive early to unload the stock, same as any other large superstore (and one would think no different from the current situation), and how do any of the other businesses around there receive stock?

The volume of cars in that area is always high due to all the other shops in the shopping centre.

7,8) Okay - cant disagree with these points

9) So in your world, once you've bought something that's it, stick with it, don't change, don't expand, if you want to improve what you have then only use what you have, no more is allowed, all sounds a bit totalitarian.

10) Splitting hairs here

11) Yes, the car spaces are extra.
Sandra Cox
Thursday 7th December 2017 at 11:44 am
Isn't the present Lidl being pulled down after the new one is built and the area will become a car park?
Nik Eastwood
Thursday 7th December 2017 at 2:09 pm
@Sandra. Yes, it will be demolished to give car parking spaces back.

So at some point there will be two store buildings, and no parking due to contractors trying to build another store.
Thursday 7th December 2017 at 2:21 pm
All - the audio recording of the meeting can be found online. I would suggest that residents who are interested listen and make up their own minds
Sandra Cox
Thursday 7th December 2017 at 2:55 pm
Nik - Thank you - yes and that will no doubt affect trade for all the shops as it it difficult enough to park there now.

The car park at Sainsburys/Hoopers was only half full at 9.30am today but by 10.20am it was overflowing with traffic. One lady told me she had been riding around for 15mins trying to park but it was hopeless. This might be the due to Christmas but it will become the norm when more and more new houses are occupied - if they sell. Building anywhere and everywhere without taking quality of life into consideration helps nobody. I feel sorry for the unsuspecting who may not realise the lack of local facilities when they decide to move here from elsewhere.

Hope they read this website before they sign on the dotted line!!
Alan Brown
Thursday 7th December 2017 at 5:03 pm
Gym membership at Total Fitness is over £500 per annum, compared with circa £190 at Energie ... and Lifestyle Fitness (a soul-less gym if ever there was one) appears to have closed!
Lorraine Smith
Thursday 7th December 2017 at 9:01 pm
I am personally very pleased that the proposed expansion has been deferred. There is no similar fitness facility in the area which was as user friendly, available, accessible and at a reasonable cost as was Energie. But moving on.....
LIDLs are pretty similar in my experience in that they pile it high, offer few till points (& therefore jobs) so that the throughput required to make money is maximised, seldom have sufficient staff on duty but do offer an alternative food shopping experience. In our area we have a full range of food shopping opportunities including Lidl, Aldis, Tescos, etc.
If LIDL wants to build a super store it should go on an appropriate site (aka the purpose built sites off the A34 including Handforth Dean) not smack in the middle of a residential area.
All those parking spaces will attract cars +++, create further traffic conjestion not just at peak times but anytime, will further damage air quality and of course there will have to be a rapid turnover of shoppers and their cars or else an enlarged LIDL cannot be cost effective.
Large companies do not build for us: they build for their owners and the quality of our lives is of little consequence to their bottom line.
Mark Goldsmith
Thursday 7th December 2017 at 10:09 pm
@Christian Hurstfield

I get that you never use Energie but you do shop in Lidl, so a new store will only be of benefit to you . But this is a community decision. So is the community better off with:

a) A Lidl


b) A Lidl AND a gym, swimming pool, sauna, cafe, hair dressers, physio and yoga studio?

Forgive me for not thinking option a) will "improve what you have" for the community. I don't think this is being totalitarian, I think its just common sense.

PS I have shopped in this Lidl's at least once or twice a week for 18 years and have NEVER seen all 6 tills open together. I think 5 is the most. And how do you get to Total Fitness in 5 minutes during rush hour? By helicopter?
Estelle Lewis
Thursday 7th December 2017 at 11:38 pm
We're getting an Aldi? Great!
Christian Hurstfield
Thursday 14th December 2017 at 2:57 pm
@Mark Goldsmith

There is probably a lot more people than just me who never use Energie but do shop in Lidl and at £20 a month Energie doesn't offer anything more for the 'community' than any other monthly gym.

Breaking down what they offer doesn't make it more community driven either.
Just as easy to say Lidl will provide, a bakery, a dairy section, fresh meat section, horticultural section, an off-license, a toiletries/baby section...

Due to the observations made about the Wilmslow Lidl (small, dated, dirty looking) I tend to use the one off Councillor Lane in Cheadle Hulme/Cheadle more, which is infinitely superior in every way, assuming the Wilmslow one will follow the same setup then it will create a much more positive environment for staff and shoppers (both of which appear to be a lot happier at the Cheadle one, and both of which make up part of the community).

I don't go to the gym in rush hour as it is rush hour...
Thursday 14th December 2017 at 3:52 pm
Christian, £20 a month is cheap in comparison to other gyms, especially ones with pools because they have to be maintained to higher health and safety standards. The community facilities, - hairdresser, beautician, physio, etc as well as a cafe. These are the same as most gyms, but it is the only gym in that area.

Lidl have assured us that there will be no new product lines. There is already a bakery, a dairy section, fresh meat section, horticultural section, an off-license, a toiletries/baby section...

The Cheadle Hulme store I know well. It is larger, has a considerably larger carpark and there is only 1 other facility on the site - the Vets. The Neighbourhood Shops, like the ones at Summerfields, are further down Councillor Lane, and so it is not a comparable site. Having said that there are areas of comparison. I have never been in either store when it has had all checkouts actually open!
Christian Hurstfield
Thursday 21st December 2017 at 9:32 am
More hair-splitting pedantic statements from 'locals', no wonder the council ignores your representations at virtually all of these community planning meetings.

Statements such as "there already is a Lidl Xft away!" and "there already is X section and Y sections" are just poor arguments.